Like so much in our pandemic-driven society of late, covering Floyd County Circuit Court is a changed environment with an indefinite hold on jury trials and appearances of jailed defendants via video from their confinement at the New River Valley Regional jail.
As I reported in The Floyd Press a few weeks ago, the Virginia Supreme Court had have jury trials suspended because of the COVID-19 Coronavirus because of concerns of infections and the difficulty of maintaining social distancing and other precautions in jury rooms.
Circuit Judge Mike Fleenor criticized the delay in getting jury trials last week when he denied bail of a man facing mutliple counts of child pornorgraphy and sexual battery, saying “the court will not hold this man in jail for much longer” without a decision on going forward with such trials.
Like all Circuit Courts in the Old Dominion, Floyd County has submitted a plan to hold such trials with safety precautions but it has not been approved yet, along with other jurisdictions where continuances are backing up.
“In creating the plan, each chief judge shall consult with the other judges in their circuit, as well as local sheriffs, public health officials, attorneys and the clerk of court,” the Supreme Court order says.
Floyd submitted its plan well before the Aug. 17 deadline.
“We have no idea where the plan for our court is in the review process,” Branscom told The Floyd Press this week. “We’re on hold just like just about everyone else.”
Jury trials used to be rare in Floyd County, but have increased in recent years and two of the continued cases involve sexual molestation of underage girls and child pornography.
Courtrooms used to be packed for many circuit court docket days in Floyd. Not now. Social distancing is marked by an “X” on the sepecator seats and masks are required. If you don’t have one, the deputy who mans the metal detector of the entrance gives you one.
Speaking of that metal detector, the one in the Floyd County Courthouse is the only one I pass through on a regular basis that does not light up and buzz when I pass through because of the metal in my right leg, which was broken badly in 2012 and is held together now with braces, rods, screws and pins.
The one at the courthouse in Christiansburg lights up like a Christmas tree when I go through. So does the one at the Poff Federal Building in Roanoke.
The detector in Floyd’s courthouse works. The metal spiral in my reporter’s notebook set it off. So does some of my watches, particularly the ones with a mechanical, not quartz, movements.
Unsafe? I don’t think so but, at least, weird.
Probably won’t see you in court in these restricted times but what happens appears in each issue of The Floyd Press and online on their website. I also cover the school board activities, the board of supervisors, and other assignments. If the high school sports schedule holds, I will be back courtside for basketball, storing Dec. 28.
Someday, this pandemic will pass but it won’t be soon.