Monroe County finds ways to hold grand jury trials again, still hoping for new courtroom

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UNION, WV (WVNS) — Prosecutors in Monroe County continued to put a dent into a backlog of more than a year’s worth of cases without a proper courtroom.

Since the courtroom shut down over three years ago, county officials are continuously faced with the challenge of trying to hold legal proceedings without a building, while also trying to find funding to fix the problem.

In 2018, the Monroe County courthouse closed after mold was discovered in the building.

“Specifically, the jury room, it had the type of black mold that could cause life-threatening illness in someone who had a compromised immune system, interestingly enough that ties into COVID-19,” said Robert Irons, a Monroe County Circuit Court Judge.

Since then, officials continued to go back and forth between finding a new location or renovating the building.

After not being able to hold a grand jury trial for more than a year, county officials finally found an adequate space to do so: the former Union Rescue Squad building. While they are finally able to move proceedings along again, Irons said they are still desperately in need of a long-term solution.

“It really is not a very good facility. It is occupied by an ambulance, the roof leaks, there is mold in that building, standing water,” said Irons.

Two grand jury trials were held in March and May of 2021. each seeing a large amount of cases.

59 News also spoke with the county prosecuting attorney, Justin St. Clair. He said every person arrested since January 2020, except those who entered a plea agreement, were still waiting for their case to be presented to the grand jury. This has created the largest backlog of cases he has ever seen.

“We have people in jail that are wanting trials that they can’t have trials, the police investigate cases and they want something to happen, the victims want something to happen,” said Irons.

Another Grand jury trial is set for Aug. 24, 2021. Irons hopes they can work to find a more permanent solution, instead of just buying time.

“I have never heard of another county that hasn’t had a courtroom in that amount of time,” said Irons.

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