Lawyers argue rights can't be denied during pandemic - FOX34 Lubbock

Lawyers argue rights can't be denied during pandemic

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"Microbiology doesn't care about courts or law, or someone shaking their fist on the steps of the courthouse in Michigan, it really doesn't care. It's a virus." Attorney David Guinn said.

COVID-19 has created several practical issues for the judicial system.

A recent court petition by defendant Trevor Rowe, highlights them.
Rowe's lawyers argue the state has infringed upon his rights.

Rowe is accused of causing the death of his girlfriend's baby girl, after she was stuffed in a backpack and left to die.
He is now in the Lubbock County Detention Center, and has been there since his arrest in early January.

Since the governor's executive order went into effect last month, grand juries have been put on hold.
Guinn, says the order is unconstitutional.

"The law is clear, it doesn't have an exception for an emergency or public health or anything else. It just says if it's been 90 days that's it."

Barron Slack, Chief Prosecutor with the Lubbock county D.A.'s office says, meeting for grand jury within the deadline would be ill-advised.

"There's specific orders, relating to that, from the courts and the governor's office giving our local courts the ability to modify those time lines because of the current circumstance," Slack said.

A court denied Rowe's petition for release based on a personal recognizance bond due to the nature of his case.

Rowe's lawyers also claimed concern for their client's risk for catching COVID-19 while detained.
The court found Rowe is not part of an "at-risk" population.

"We've got a real tension here. Because that person's in a jail, and that should be a perfect incubator for COVID-19," Guinn said.

There have been no confirmed reports of cases in the Lubbock County Detention Center.

Both lawyers agree, the courts are facing a difficult balance.

"When it comes to rights, you have to be careful. You can be right, or you can be "dead right". And in the case of COVID-19 it can be more than just you. It's anybody else in the court room, and nobody wants that," Guinn said.

"Now you have competing public safety interests.One, we don't want to gather people together, because of this diseases everyone's trying to figure out, this virus. But then two, if we can't do the normal business  and somebody's released, are they dangerous as well?" Slack said.

He expects the state will resume grand jury trials "sooner rather than later."

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