Acting District Attorney Randy McGinley has announced the restart of the grand juries in both Walton and Newton counties in the Alcovy Judicial Circuit in order to get the court systems back up to speed following the COVID-19 shutdowns.
“Since March, the court systems in both Newton and Walton Counties have been operating differently in many regards. Once major obstacle was that we were not allowed to hold any sessions of grand jury or impanel a new grand jury until recently. This changed in both counties this month when the Georgia Supreme Court allowed grand juries to restart,” McGinley said in a press release. “Typically, each county would summon approximately 60 potential jurors with the goal of eventually selecting a grand jury of 23 individuals. However, due to concerns with the Covid pandemic, I and the Clerk in each county, Linda Hays in Newton and Karen David in Walton, made the decision to send out 100 summonses. The summonsed individuals were also asked additional questions related to any symptoms or exposure to Covid-19. Many of this number were excused prior to the first grand jury date. From those that appeared on the above dates, we were able to select 23 grand jurors in each county plus 3 alternate grand jurors.”
A Newton County Grand Jury was selected on Oct. 14 and Walton County on Oct. 20. McGinley said both District Attorney’s offices subsequently began presenting cases and, in order to catch up the backlog of about 200 cases in each county, the grand juries have increased meetings to twice a month. Historically, they would only meet once a month
“Both grand juries have already had two sessions. Our offices have presented about 45 cases in Walton and 60 cases in Newton. This includes numerous murder cases, armed robberies, child victim cases, and other crimes,” McGinley said. “The Walton grand jury has heard less than Newton because we presented a larger number of complex and/or multiple co- defendant cases that take much longer to present properly.”
McGinley said all guidelines from the Georgia Supreme Court and the CDC were followed, including jurors and staff wearing masks and all areas were properly sanitized and all are working long hours to ensure the cases are property handled.
One other function of the grand jury is to inspect county offices such as the Sheriff’s Office, the Tax Commissioner’s Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Probate Court, and the Clerk of Court. McGinley said the Sheriff’s Office must be inspected each year while the other offices must be inspected every 3 years and since the previous grand jury was unable to fulfill these duties due to COVID-19, the new grand juries will have to ensure that this is done by the end of the year.