Legal professional’s perspective: doable Blakely trial faces COVID-19 challenges

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Attorney’s perspective: possible Blakely trial faces COVID-19 challenges

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – It has been more than a year since Limestone County Sheriff Mike Blakely was charged with theft and ethical charges for using his office for personal gain.

Blakely was arrested on August 22, 2019.

The state made it clear on Tuesday that they wanted a new date for Blakely’s trial, as Blakely had remained sheriff since his arrest. Prosecutors are confident that the COVID-19 protocols have been put in place to keep everyone safe and want to continue.

However, Huntsville defense attorney Ron Smith, who is not involved in the case, said the COVID-19 challenges in Blakely’s high profile case may be too big to deal with.

“I certainly think that people who weren’t concerned about judging a year ago may have strong concerns today, saying, ‘I just don’t want to put myself at risk,” said Smith.

He said the main concern is the customer’s legal rights.

“Are my client’s constitutional rights protected by these procedures we have put in place to deal with COVID?” Smith said.

The judges in Northern Alabama have already made changes to the number of people who can attend a trial. Others have asked people to observe them virtually. But Smith said the judges should watch out for restrictions.

“The Constitution doesn’t say you have a right to a fair trial unless there’s an emergency or there’s a pandemic.” It says “You have a right to a fair trial,” said Smith.

The original jury pool for Blakely’s trial consisted of nearly 500 people. Limestone County officials face a major challenge in choosing the jury to find a spot for them all.

News 19 reached out to Blakely’s defense team to consider the request. They decided not to comment on this at this point.

The Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall’s office did not respond to our request for comment.

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