Lexington Herald-Leader: UK student was killed 5 years ago. Lexington trial of man accused delayed again.

Smith and his attorney Kim Green argued in a motion that they had not been able to properly prepare for their trial because of COVID-19 restrictions on travel and jail visitation. The restrictions followed a long-awaited but mostly inconclusive state Supreme Court decision on the defendant’s eligibility for the death penalty.

“Under ideal conditions, it may have been possible to prepare for the addition of the death penalty at trial with the four month’s notice provided by the Kentucky Supreme Court, but the current conditions resulting from the pandemic have made preparation for trial effectively impossible,” Smith’s counsel said in the motion.

In exhibitions filed to the court, an investigator and a mitigation specialist said they’d had great difficulty speaking with Smith and witnesses due to COVID-19 restrictions. They both said the virtual meetings they’ve been trying to conduct have been ineffective.

Joshua Powell, an investigator for Smith, said he has tried to do 30 video interviews, and only about 20 percent of them have worked properly. He cited distorted sound and issues with the jail computer that Smith was using.

“Several pertinent witnesses in this case live out of state, which complicates this issue,” Powell said in an affidavit.

Mitigation specialist Suzanne Hooper said she previously worked and lived in Lexington, but moved to Florida after Smith’s case started. She planned to commute to Kentucky to handle her work here. Under guidance provided by health officials, she couldn’t travel to Kentucky, and video interviews had been unproductive, Hooper said.

State prosecutors did not speak during Smith’s virtual court appearance Wednesday, but the state had previously said in a motion to deny a lower bond that “at this point, all parties should be prepared and ready to go forward with that trial.”

Green — Smith’s counsel — also argued that the preparation of the case had changed after the Supreme Court said the death penalty shouldn’t be excluded from consideration yet if Smith is found guilty.

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Law.com: ‘Disruption We Needed’: Judiciary Called to Adopt Transparency, Accessibility Reforms Post-Pandemic

A panel of experts called for the federal judiciary to permanently adopt changes to proceedings forced by the COVID-19 pandemic, describing an opportunity to create a more transparent and accessible court system moving forward.

The House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on courts heard the testimony Thursday, where witnesses currently outside the federal judiciary urged Congress to take steps to help implement the permanent fixes, like authorizing a study of the effectiveness of accessibility measures and other policies adopted during the pandemic. A federal judge testifying on behalf of the Judicial Conference shied away from more dramatic proposals, like permanently allowing the livestreaming proceedings at the district court level, but agreed there were ways to improve the system.

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Government Technology: Alabama County Embraces Virtual ‘Picnic Court’ Concept

Folks having cases heard lined up on the sidewalk for their turn under a blue canopy set up on the shady side of the courthouse. The docket kicked off at 8 a.m. with a long line stretching because of the social distancing requirements. By mid-morning the crowd had slackened off, as people waited in their cars to be called to appear.

“I think it’s gone well,” Circuit Clerk Deb Hill said. “Everyone seems to be patient and in a good mood. They are working with us.”

There were a few technological glitches as the signal faded out from time to time as folks talked into a computer screen.

“Can you see me now?” was a phrase Hayden oft repeated.

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