A hearing in the Joe Clyde Daniels disappearance case was postponed last week because four Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents who were set to testify had to self-quarantine due to possible COVID-19 exposure, authorities said.
TBI Communications Director Josh DeVine confirmed in an email last Friday that the four agents were in quarantine, but he said none of them had tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Dickson County Circuit Court hearing in the Daniels case was scheduled for Sept. 4 and postponed until Sept. 24.
Joseph Daniels is charged with murder and Krystal Daniels faces one count of aggravated child neglect in connection with the April 2018 disappearance of their son, Joe Clyde Daniels, who was 5 years old at the time. His body has not been found.
The defendants are not expected to go to trial until 2021.
DeVine said the four agents in quarantine had participated in a training event during the week ending Aug. 29, “which involved approximately 20 TBI employees and an outside facilitator.”
For the event at TBI’s Nashville headquarters, “Our team did abundantly more than requested or required, in terms of proactive, COVID-19-related measures,” DeVine said.
DeVine said that on Aug. 27 a training event participant learned that the participant’s supervisor — who was not a part of the event — had tested positive for COVID-19.
“The participant immediately quarantined and sought testing, and did not participate” in Aug. 28 activities at the training event, DeVine said.
The employee tested positive, learning the result Aug. 29, DeVine said.
“Once the employee informed the agency, all potentially impacted employees — including those in last week’s training event — were notified, including four agents involved in the Daniels matter,” DeVine said in the Sept. 4 email. “Per federal and state recommendations, the employees will quarantine for a period of time and may pursue COVID-19 testing.”
He added in the email: “At this time, we have not been informed of any additional positive test results among the group who participated in last week’s training.”
Dickson County Circuit Court Clerk Pam Lewis announced last Thursday that all jury trials in criminal cases during September will be held at the War Memorial Building in Dickson instead of the Charlotte courthouse annex because social distancing is easier in the Dickson building than the courtrooms.
Lewis said that there are 58 cases set for trial this month. However, the vast majority of cases wind up in plea agreements.
Lewis added that the War Memorial Building — which also houses the Dickson County Chamber of Commerce — could involve other judicial proceedings in addition to jury trials.
Courts across Tennessee have used a combination of in-person social distancing and remote proceedings during the pandemic, guided by a series of state Supreme Court orders.
The Tennessee Supreme Court justices have been weighing infection risks with the constitutional rights of defendants, as well as the rights of court access by the media and the general public such as victims’ family members.
Many Dickson County Circuit Court proceedings, such as arraignments, pleas and sentences, are held on a Zoom video-conference platform. Links to join the calls are sent by court staff to the media, attorneys and others.
A typical video call involves prosecutors, defense lawyers, defendants, witnesses, probation officers and others participating at various points. They rotate in and out of the call as a judge runs down the docket with the help of Lewis and her staff.