Circuit courts for Hopewell, Prince George and Surry counties will use the Beacon Theatre for jury trials

Virginia News

Before the plan was finalized and sent to the state’s highest court, a mock jury trial was coordinated at the Beacon Theatre on Aug. 4 for procedural purposes. (photo from attached exhibit in Virginia’s 6th Judicial Court’s resumption plan)

HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Supreme Court approved a proposal last week to use the Beacon Theatre, a music venue in the city of Hopewell, as a temporary location for Hopewell, Prince George and Surry circuit courts to hold jury trials as the coronavirus pandemic continues to force localities to adapt.

Judge William Edward Tomko III, the chief judge of Virginia’s 6th Judicial Court, submitted a resumption plan to Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons on Oct. 21 requesting permission to move jury trials to temporary venues in the area.

“Having consulted with the other judges of this circuit, the local sheriffs, attorneys, clerks of court, and health officials, the Chief Judge submits that no courtroom or courthouse in the Sixth Circuit can accommodate a public jury trial while maintaining social distancing requirements,” the plan stated.

The plan identified two locations, the Beacon Theatre in Hopewell and the Golden Leaf Commons in Greensville County, as alternate spaces in the circuit that would accommodate jury trials while allowing coronavirus guidelines to be followed. It also lays out specific regulations and protocols during trials, including cleaning measures and the steps that will taken if a COVID-19 exposure were to occur.

The set up for jury trials at Golden Leaf Commons in Greensville County (photo from attached exhibit in Virginia’s 6th Judicial Court’s resumption plan)

Chief Justice Lemons sent a letter dated Dec. 16 to Tomko informing him that a panel of three Justices approved the 6th Judicial Circuit’s request, but made it clear that failing to adhere to the submitted plan could change things.

“You may begin jury trials effective today, provided the jury trial is consistent with and in reasonable conformity with the plan,” Lemons wrote. “This approval is subject to a change in circumstances including failure to carry the plan you have submitted.”

Gold Leaf Commons, an event venue owned and operated by the county, will serve as a temporary home for jury trials for the circuit courts of Sussex, Greensville, Emporia and Brunswick. The city of Hopewell, which owns and operates the Beacon Theatre, has kept the nearly 100-year-old building open at limited capacity during the pandemic.

A space in the Beacon Theatre that has a dedicated bathroom was listed as a possible location for a “holding cell” for incarcerated defendants. Before the plan was finalized and sent to the state’s highest court, a mock jury trial was coordinated at the theater on Aug. 4 for procedural purposes.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

StormTracker 8

Trending Stories

More Trending Stories

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss

Local Events