The Kentucky Supreme Court lifted a large swathe of COVID-19 restrictions for courtrooms across the state. Even the controversial mask mandate has been eased for vaccinated residents with court business.
With in-person court proceedings scheduled to begin soon in Graves County, defense and prosecutorial attorneys are eager to step back into the courtroom once more.
Defense Attorney Dennis Null of Null, Samson and Paitsel said navigating the court system remotely has presented “a lot of logistical challenges.” He said things like testimony, cross examinations and evidence exhibitions can be interrupted by connection issues, and people have a tendency to talk over each other.
“It’s just not the same in trying to present testimony and evidence when everybody’s staring at each other through a computer screen,” Null said.
With in-person court proceedings to resume later this month, he is “absolutely” looking forward to interacting face-to-face again, and he’s not alone. Prosecutors at the Graves County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office have also anticipated their return to in-person court.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Aimee Clymer-Hancock said the allowance of jury trials in May has already seen the closure of a “serious domestic violence case” that had been on hold because of the pandemic. She stressed the importance of having the courts readily available to process pending litigations for everyone — plaintiff or defendant.
“It is imperative that our victims, our community and those who stand accused of crimes have access to the court system. We are proud to again enter the Graves County Circuit Courtroom and fight for truth and justice on behalf of this community,” Clymer-Hancock said.
Her sentiments were echoed by Commonwealth’s Attorney Richie Kemp who said that simply being able to hold such trials again has already helped a lot.
“Just having the ability to set matters for trial is helping us to get cases resolved. We have a log jam of cases that need to be resolved, but that’s not unique to Graves County. It has been trying and it will continue to be trying, but we’ll get through it. We’ll get through it seeking justice for Graves County victims and treating defendants fairly,” Kemp said.
To his understanding, Graves County court will resume in-person court proceedings for criminal and civil matters on June 28.
According to a Kentucky Supreme Court document, even though many restrictions have been lifted, some are at the presiding judge’s discretion, such as masks, capacity, or whether to even have court in-person.
The Mayfield Messenger has reached out to the office of Graves County Circuit Judge Kevin Bishop for more information, but since he only took the judge’s seat last week he has not yet had time to consider it.
It was not immediately clear whether the general public would be allowed back into the courtroom.