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News in brief

Animal Services limited in Macon

Due to COVID-19 cases within Macon County Animal Services and in preparation to continue essential service delivery at Macon County Public Health, Macon County Animal Services (a section within Macon County Public Health) will be limiting services until at least Nov. 2, 2020.

Macon County Animal Services will continue to provide essential services including conducting bite investigations and caring for and treating animals in their care. Macon County Animal Service’s lobby will be closed to the public. Animal surrenders, adoptions, picking up stray animals and responding to nuisance calls will be discontinued until Nov. 2. Those who are looking to adopt or re-home animals are encouraged to reach out to Appalachian Animal Rescue Center should they need these services. 

The announcement was made just days after the health department issued a press released stating that four employees had tested positive for COVID-19. 

 

Jury trial resume in district

After months of delay, jury trials resume on a limited basis this week in the 43rd Prosecutorial District, made up of the state’s seven westernmost counties and overseen by District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch.

The first jury trials in the district started Monday in Haywood County. 

In March, Chief Justice Cheri Beasley ordered a statewide halt to jury trials to help combat coronavirus spread. She extended the restriction through Oct. 15. Though jury trials have not taken place, North Carolina’s judicial system has continued its day-to-day functions, such as accepting pleas, holding traffic court and granting protections to victims of domestic violence.

In anticipation of the gradual resumption of jury trials, Beasley directed senior resident superior court judges, in consultation with local officials, to craft court safety plans. The judges retain discretion to suspend jury trials in their counties in connection with COVID-19, based on local needs and conditions.

Haywood County has adequately sized courtrooms, as well as a jury assembly room that provides still more space, Assistant District Attorney Jeff Jones said. Jurors will be seated in both the juror box and in the audience area of the courtroom, providing 6- to 10-foot distancing; additionally, the courtrooms have been refigured with safety in mind. 

The one-week restriction for jury trials has shaped the types of cases that can be heard.

 “Those selected for trial are factually brief and do not require a large number of witnesses,” Jones said.

After Haywood’s session, Jackson and Clay counties are scheduled to hold jury trials for one week each, beginning Monday, Nov. 2. 

Assistant District Attorney John Hindsman Jr. said Clay County has adequate space for court proceedings, but jury selection will move from the courthouse to the recreation center/gym.

Haywood County has a second session for jury trials beginning the week of Nov. 9. Cherokee County will hold jury trials the week of Nov. 16, in the usual venue. Macon, Swain and Graham counties start jury trials in the new year.

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