Analysis: More review for some pretrial cases during virus

The leader of the Mississippi Supreme Court says he will require some judges to more frequently review who is being held in county jails during the coronavirus pandemic.

Posted: Apr 26, 2020 8:50 PM

JACKSON, Miss (AP) — The leader of the Mississippi Supreme Court says he will require some judges to more frequently review who is being held in county jails during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief Justice Mike Randolph issued an administrative order Thursday saying all court districts or counties that have not reviewed conditions of release for all pretrial detainees in the past 30 days must do it soon. It's a step short of setting a statewide mandate, after trial judges in some parts of the state said the reviews are happening on a regular basis.

Randolph's order sets an April 30 deadline for the person in charge of a jail — usually the sheriff — to provide a list of all people being held while awaiting indictment or trial, the charges upon which they are being held and the date they were most recently taken into custody.

The order also sets a May 7 deadline for the senior circuit judge in the area, or another judge designated by the senior judge, to review “the conditions for every pretrial detainee who is eligible for bail.”

Randolph's order notes the potential for dangers created by COVID-19 “within the unique context of detention centers” and it says judges may consider the real or potential impact of the highly contagious virus within a particular jail when reviewing conditions for release.

Many pretrial detainees in Mississippi are held for months because they cannot afford to post bail. And in some jails, inmates sleep in “open bay” settings, with multiple beds in a single large room — circumstances that make social distancing impossible.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause severe symptoms and be fatal.

April 9, the Mississippi attorney general and the state public defender filed a joint motion seeking a temporary change in rules governing the criminal justice system. They requested more frequent judicial review of pretrial detainees' status in county jails statewide. They raised concerns that COVID-19 could overwhelm the jails’ health care capabilities.

“Stated simply, it is extremely difficult for Mississippi sheriffs to comply with the CDC guidelines in jails where close physical proximity is a reality, access to protective equipment is limited, effective quarantine space is scarce or entirely unavailable, and exposure to those moving in and out from the ‘free world’ is unavoidable,” the attorney general’s office and the public defender’s office wrote.

Rules require sheriffs to produce jail census information seven days before the beginning of a circuit court term for hearing criminal cases. In some parts of the state, court terms are months apart, which means the cases of pretrial detainees can go without review for long periods.

Public defender Andre de Gruy sought weekly reviews. Attorney General Lynn Fitch sought them biweekly.

Several Mississippi judges filed documents opposing even a temporary rules change, saying it would create more work for sheriffs and others who are already stretched to do their jobs under stressful circumstances.

Fitch, a Republican elected statewide last year, did an about-face on the issue. In a document filed Wednesday, the attorney general's office withdrew its part of the joint motion.

“Judges, sheriffs, prosecutors and public defenders are closely monitoring the jail population,” the attorney general's office wrote in the new document. “Steps taken in some districts are even more than what was requested.”

In December, about 2,500 people had been jailed longer than 90 days, and more than 575 had been jailed more than a year awaiting trial in Mississippi, according to figures released in March by the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi law school. Those are similar to the figures from November 2018.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 314509

Reported Deaths: 7247
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21626259
Hinds20359415
Harrison17934309
Rankin13634278
Jackson13447246
Madison10099217
Lee9980174
Jones8381163
Forrest7683152
Lauderdale7191241
Lowndes6401147
Lamar623086
Lafayette6200118
Washington5339134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462798
Panola4588107
Pearl River4512146
Marshall4443103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420772
Monroe4113133
Union411076
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3968110
Hancock379386
Leflore3497125
Sunflower336090
Tate334084
Pike3325105
Scott315973
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311669
Itawamba300477
Copiah297065
Coahoma295479
Simpson295288
Tippah288768
Adams286882
Prentiss279760
Marion269280
Leake268373
Wayne262641
Grenada261487
Covington259681
George248048
Newton246861
Winston227281
Tishomingo226967
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw207857
Holmes189173
Clay185454
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178841
Clarke178080
Calhoun170832
Yalobusha164338
Smith162434
Walthall133945
Greene130633
Lawrence128624
Montgomery126942
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83823
Quitman80916
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67331
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 532895

Reported Deaths: 11001
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson771431528
Mobile41089808
Madison34837505
Tuscaloosa25810454
Montgomery24355588
Shelby23730249
Baldwin21191309
Lee15892171
Calhoun14522316
Morgan14324279
Etowah13861353
Marshall12250223
Houston10581281
Elmore10060205
Limestone9986151
Cullman9705194
St. Clair9702243
Lauderdale9441242
DeKalb8846187
Talladega8255176
Walker7246277
Autauga6938108
Jackson6815112
Blount6694137
Colbert6310134
Coffee5524119
Dale4850111
Russell443238
Chilton4308112
Franklin426282
Covington4136118
Tallapoosa4039152
Escambia393977
Chambers3578123
Dallas3557152
Clarke351161
Marion3130101
Pike311377
Lawrence300798
Winston275673
Bibb261564
Geneva251477
Marengo249664
Pickens234761
Barbour231756
Hale223277
Butler216469
Fayette212562
Henry189044
Cherokee184745
Randolph181742
Monroe178040
Washington167639
Macon159950
Clay156857
Crenshaw152757
Cleburne149141
Lamar142935
Lowndes139053
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110629
Coosa107928
Perry107826
Sumter104832
Greene92534
Choctaw61124
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 53°
Columbus
Clear
54° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 54°
Oxford
Clear
48° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 48°
Starkville
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 50°
High pressure will continue to dominate our weather forecast for this weekend. This will keep our area filled with plenty of sunshine. However, there will be some changes next week in our weahter forecast as low pressure brings back some chances for showers and thunderstorms.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather