BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — COVID-19 put most things on pause for a few months, but crime does not take a break, and justice still needs to be served.
The WV Supreme Court of Appeals ruled all court hearings needed to be postponed. For Raleigh County, that included their scheduled grand jury in May.
Kristen Keller is the Prosecuting Attorney for Raleigh County.
“The supreme court said that by mid-summer, counties may be able to have a grand jury, but then it is left to each county to whether or not we can safely hold a grand jury,” Keller said.
Raleigh County administrators believe it would be impossible to reschedule that grand jury in the summer. They could enforce social distancing among the 16 jurors, and require them to wear a mask, but they would still need to pass around evidence to make their decision.
“To do such a grand jury, without exposing grand jurors and law enforcement officers to risks,” Keller said.
So, they made the decision to move all May cases, to the September Grand Jury. That means the victims of crimes committed as far back as January, will have to wait months. The Prosecuting Attorney’s Victim Advocate, Jeff Shumate, said he is reaching out to those victims, trying to provide some comfort during this waiting period.
“With victims, I found, communication. If you communicate with them what they can expect to happen and why, they have a really good response to that,” Shumate said.