Eighth Circuit Court in Laurens County is hosting the first jury criminal trial in South Carolina since state courtrooms were shuttered in April due to COVID-19.
The murder trial of Lutavious Denard Elmore, 32, of Laurens, got underway Monday with 8th Circuit Judge Donald B. Hocker presiding.
Elmore is charged with the 2018 stabbing death of Sergio Mandez Lindsey of Greenville. He was 26.
According to the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office, Elmore allegedly stabbed Lindsey during an altercation involving a woman on Easy Road in Laurens.
Elmore was arrested on Oct. 27, 2018 and booked into the Johnson Detention Center on murder charges. He was denied bond and is also charged with third-degree assault and battery, possession of a weapon during a violent crime, domestic violence of a high and aggravated nature, kidnapping and burglary.
With the jury selected and the defense laying out its case in court Tuesday, jurors and observers were required to wear masks and practice social distancing during the trial.
South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty ordered that all courthouses in the state enforce the wearing of “a mask or other facial covering.”
“In order to protect the health and safety of members of the public and judicial staff, and in order to maintain the operation of the South Carolina Unified Judicial System, I find it now necessary to issue this Order to effectuate a statewide mandate requiring a mask or other facial covering in county and and municipal courthouses statewide,” Beatty wrote in the judicial order.
Beatty was in attendance for Elmore’s trial during Monday and Tuesday’s sessions.
The order applies to those employed or conducting business in or visiting county and municipal courthouses, meaning masks are required for everyone at Laurens County’s Hillcrest Judicial Complex, which houses 8th Circuit courts, magistrate courts as well as county administrative offices.
Those entering courthouses will also be screened for fevers using an infrared or temporal thermometer, the order read. Social distancing rules must also be adhered to, according to the order.
Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo released the following statement on the return to the courtroom Tuesday evening: