In keeping with Gov. Tate Reeves’s current executive orders during the COVID-19 pandemic – particularly one which limits inside gatherings to 10 people or less and outdoor gatherings to 20 or less – the Lamar County Board of Supervisors has agreed to allow county courts to meet in the Lamar County FEMA shelter building rather than the regular courtrooms if needed.
The measure to allow the move to the FEMA building, which is located on Central Industrial Row in Purvis, was approved unanimously during Monday’s board meeting.
The FEMA facility will initially be used to house a possible civil trial regarding a 2018 vehicle accident on U.S. 98 near the Canebrake subdivision.
“We’ve been ordered by the Supreme Court to still be able to conduct business, and that includes trials,” Lamar County Circuit Clerk Martin Hankins said. “For court, per se, we’re able to limit the amount of people that come in, but in regard to a jury trial, our (regular) venue cannot hold that.
“It’s not large enough to hold that amount of people that come in, so therefore, for the safety of our citizens and everyone involved, we needed to look at a larger venue.”
The initial case that will be seen at the FEMA building involves a 2018 automobile accident between Sandy Hook resident Meshellie Boddie and Sumrall resident Justin Garber.
In an initial complaint, which was filed in May 2019, Boddie alleged that Garber “violently” rear-ended her vehicle after not stopping his vehicle for a red traffic light.
Boddie was escorted to the hospital via ambulance, and her vehicle was totaled because of the impact.
“As of right now, we’re looking at (the fact that) we could have a possible trial towards the end of this month; it would be a civil trial,” Hankins said. “Currently, our venue right now is not large enough to hold a trial, when you start to bring in citizens for a jury trial and voire dire (preliminary examination).
“So we had to kind of think outside of the box and find a venue that was large enough to hold
to hold voire dire and a possible jury trial.
“For us, the Lamar County storm shelter is a perfect place to go to do that. Me, along with the judges’ staff and the attorneys, we’ve gone over there and looked at that building, and we’ve deemed it proper to be able to hold a trial there.”