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Mississippi Supreme Court allows felony plea hearings by video conference

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On Friday, Sept. 4, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued an order allowing plea hearings in felony cases to be conducted by video conference to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in jails.

Chief Justice Mike Randolph signed Emergency Administrative Order 16, which said trial judges have the discretion to use interactive audiovisual equipment to conduct plea hearings “in the interest of balancing the health risks presented by COVID-19 with the courts’ constitutional and statutory duty to remain open and accessible.”

The Supreme Court said that video conferencing for a plea hearing can be done only if a defendant willingly agrees to this method, and only if the defense attorney is physically present with the defendant. The Court issued these requirements:

  1. a full record of the proceedings shall be made, which may include an electronic recording (digitally or on tape);
  2. after consultation with counsel, the defendant shall provide written consent to the use of “interactive audiovisual equipment” during the proceedings;
  3. the court shall determine that the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily agrees to appear at the proceeding by interactive audiovisual means; and
  4. counsel shall be physically present with the defendant during the proceedings, with each taking appropriate and/or mandated measures to minimize the potential transmission of COVID-19 (e.g., face coverings over the nose and mouth; social distancing), and provisions shall be made to allow for confidential communications between the defendant and counsel before and during the proceeding.

On March 25, the Mississippi Attorney General and the State Public Defender filed a joint motion requesting the Supreme Court to adopt a temporary rule suspension that would allow felony plea hearings, sentencing hearings and probation violation hearings to be done by way of interactive audiovisual equipment. The request was made to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 into jails. On March 26, the Supreme Court declined to allow plea hearings by video conference, but agreed to temporarily suspend Rule1.8(c) of the Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure to allow sentencing hearings and probation violation hearings to be conducted by video conference.

The president of the United States signed the CARES Act the next day, March 27. The CARES Act authorized federal courts to use video conferencing, under certain circumstances, for various criminal proceedings during the COVID-19 emergency, including felony pleas.

The Supreme Court said it would reconsider the issue of trial courts using video conferences to conduct plea hearings Aug. 5. The Court told the Attorney General and the State Public Defender to provide more information via supplemental briefs.

In a document filed Aug. 11, State Defender Andre’ de Gruy said, “The purpose of our request in March and still today is to protect the health and safety of detainees while ensuring their constitutional rights are protected as well. Protection of this vulnerable population also protects everyone involved in the system including jailors, court personnel and defense lawyers but the defendant’s rights must be paramount.”

The office of the attorney general asked the court in a document filed Aug. 20 to protect vulnerable populations of jails by “vesting complete discretion in Mississippi’s trial court judges to decide on a case-by-case bases whether in-person hearings can be conducted safely or should be handled remotely.”

The attorney general noted that all U.S. District Courts in Mississippi as well as in neighboring states use video conferences for accepting felony pleas. The attorney general wrote that after the CARES Act allowed federal district courts to utilize video conferences to conduct plea hearings, “all federal district courts in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Tennessee have found that felony plea proceedings cannot be conducted in person without seriously jeopardizing public health and safety and authorized the use of interactive audiovisual technology for these proceedings where the defendant consents and the court specifically finds that the plea cannot be delayed without serious harm to the interests of justice.”

Read Emergency Administrative Order 16

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Six new COVID-19 cases Tuesday in Warren County; 713 statewide

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New COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb in Mississippi as they have been doing for more than 10 days.

“I do think we are on the front end of something that could be bad,” said State Health Officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs in a Zoom meeting Monday. “The last time we saw that was before the summer surge,” Dobbs added. “That doesn’t mean we can’t turn that around. It’s not that hard. We just have to have a little bit of patience.”

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported six new COVID-19 cases Tuesday in Warren County and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,476, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 713 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 105,941. The seven-day average of new cases is 609, higher by 183 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Tuesday that 14 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,115. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 2.9%.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day was 67 reported Aug. 25.

MSDH reported Tuesday that 13 deaths occurred in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Tuesday
Amite 2
Hancock 1
Harrison 1
Lee 1
Lowndes 1
Marshall 1
Monroe 1
Rankin 1
Tishomingo 1
Washington 3

One COVID-19 related death occurred Sept. 25 in Adams County and was identified from a death certificate report.

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, hospitalizations have been showing a definite rise since then.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 507 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 93 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 145 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 69 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 94,165 through Sunday, Oct. 11. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 89% of the cumulative 105,941 cases reported Tuesday, Oct. 13.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Tuesday, Sept. 22, was 1,382, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,329, or about 90% of the 1,476 cumulative cases reported as of Tuesday, Oct. 11. The county has an estimated 87 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Sunday, Oct. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 6.3% Sunday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 128 Tuesday. About 40.6%, or 1,265, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data here. The latest data available is for the week ending Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Mississippi’s seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases remains over 600 Monday

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Sunday and Monday saw the expected weekend drop in reported new COVID-19 cases and deaths. Mississippi’s seven-day average remains above 600.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported three new COVID-19 cases Sunday in Warren County and no new cases Monday. No new deaths were reported either day. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,470, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 294 new COVID-19 cases Sunday and 296 cases Monday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 105,228. The seven-day average of new cases is 646, higher by 197 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Sunday that five additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. No new deaths were reported Monday. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,101. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 3%.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day was 67 reported Aug. 25.

MSDH reported Sunday that five deaths occurred between Oct. 5 and Oct. 10 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Sunday
Lafayette 1
Leflore 1
Marion 1
Montgomery 1
Tate 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 10, and Sunday, Oct. 11. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, they began showing a definite rise last week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 491 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 109 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 136 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 59 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 90,577 through Sunday, Oct. 4. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 86% of the cumulative 105,228 cases reported Monday, Oct. 11.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Monday, Sept. 21, was 1,381, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,328, or about 90.3% of the 1,470 cumulative cases reported as of Monday, Oct. 11. The county has an estimated 89 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Sunday, Oct. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 6.3% Sunday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 5%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 126 Monday. About 40.1%, or 1,258, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data here. The latest data available is for the week ending Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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Third spike in COVID-19 cases reported Saturday; seven-day average over 600

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With another spike of new COVID-19 cases Saturday, the third in a week, Mississippi’s seven-day average was above 600 for the first time in over a month, further indicating the state may be seeing the beginning of a new surge in cases. Hospitalizations have also continued to rise throughout the week.

The Mississippi State Department of Health reported eight new COVID-19 cases in Warren County Saturday and no new deaths. The cumulative number of cases in Warren County to date is 1,467, and the county’s death toll is 53.

Statewide, MSDH reported 957 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, bringing the total cumulative confirmed cases in Mississippi to 104,638. The seven-day average of new cases is 638, higher by 180 cases from a month ago.

Most new cases are seen in younger people recently, and they are more likely to survive the virus than those 65 and older. By far, the age group reporting the most cases in Mississippi are young people from 18 to 29 years old.

MSDH reported Saturday that 16 additional Mississippians died of COVID-19 statewide. The cumulative number of deaths in the state is 3,096. The state’s rate of deaths to confirmed cases is about 3%.

Deaths are a lagging indicator. While July saw the highest number of new cases since the crisis began, August saw the highest number of deaths. The highest number of deaths in any one day was 67 reported Aug. 25.

MSDH reported Saturday that 10 deaths occurred between Sept. 23 and Oct. 9 in the following counties:

County Deaths reported Saturday
Alcorn 1
George 1
Hancock 1
Montgomery 1
Panola 1
Stone 1
Tippah 1
Washington 2
Winston 1

Six COVID-19 related deaths occurred between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1 and were identified from death certificate reports.

County Deaths identified on death certificate reports
Desoto 1
Hinds 1
Lee 1
Madison 1
Panola 1
Scott 1

New cases and deaths were reported to MSDH as of 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 9. MSDH usually reports statistics on the COVID-19 coronavirus each day based on the previous day’s testing and death reports.

The primary metric concerning state health officials are the numbers of people hospitalized, and that number rose steadily with the rise of new cases in July and August. On June 6, the number of Mississippians hospitalized with confirmed cases of COVID-19 was at 358. Hospitalizations nearly tripled by late July. They leveled off in early August and began noticeably dropping in the middle of the month including critical cases and numbers of people requiring ventilators. Hospitalizations continued to drop in September but levelled off at the middle of the month. They continued to drop through Oct. 3; however, they have shown a definite rise this week.

The number of Mississippians hospitalized for the virus as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, is 600, about half of the late July peak of more than 1,200. The number includes 491 with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 109 people with suspected but unconfirmed cases. Of those with confirmed infections, 136 were critically ill and in intensive care units and 59 were on ventilators.

Source: MSDH

MSDH has estimated the number of people who can be presumed recovered from COVID-19 in Mississippi. That number is 90,577 through Sunday, Oct. 4. This figure is updated weekly. It represents about 86.6% of the cumulative 104,638 cases reported Saturday, Oct. 10.

The number of cases in Warren County three weeks ago, Saturday, Sept. 19, was 1,380, therefore the estimated number of people presumed recovered in the county is 1,327, or about 90.5% of the 1,467 cumulative cases reported as of Saturday, Oct. 10. The county has an estimated 87 active cases.

These estimates are based on MSDH’s guidelines for calculating estimated recoveries when hospitalizations are not known, using the number of cases 21 days ago, less known outcomes (deaths).

The total number of Mississippians tested for COVID-19 (PCR and antigen tests identifying current infections) as of Saturday, Oct. 3, is 863,957 or about 29% of the state’s 2.976 million residents. The positivity rate (positive results to tests, seven-day average) was 5.9% Friday according to Johns Hopkins University. The national rate is 4.9%, and 5% or lower indicates adequate testing.

The total number of outbreaks in long-term care facilities is 126 Saturday. About 40.5%, or 1,254, of the state’s total deaths were people in long-term care facilities.

A total of 25 deaths in Warren County were residents of LTC facilities.

MSDH is no longer reporting outbreaks in individual long-term care facilities in Mississippi and has replaced it with access to a database from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. You can access and search the data here. The latest data available is for the week ending Sept. 27.

For additional information, visit the MSDH website.

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