Out of the many cases stuck in limbo during the postponement of all state judicial proceedings, the one concerning the death of 38-year-old Erik Keais last September has been on the lips of many concerned citizens in Polk County.
The presentation of Tallapoosa Circuit Superior Court Judge Meng Lim’s case to the Haralson County grand jury on July 31, as well as other high-profile cases heard by grand juries around the state, have raised the question of why Keais’ case has not yet been put before a Polk County grand jury.
Tallapoosa Judicial Circuit District Attorney Jack Browning addressed this specifically when reached for comment in the Lim hearing, which his office was involved in as he covers both Polk and Haralson counties.
He said the difference lies with how the two counties handle grand jury. Haralson County had impaneled and swore in a grand jury in January per the county’s jury terms and it was still valid to hear Lim’s case.
Polk County’s grand jury term doesn’t begin until the third Monday in March, by which time all new court activity had been shut down as part of the judicial emergency order by Chief Justice Harold Melton of the Georgia Supreme Court in response to the COVID-19 outbreak and pandemic.
“As opposed to going out to eat, or going bowling, or going to a restaurant, those things are voluntary on your part. As far as the court is concerned, you are mandated to come and show up for a grand jury or be held in contempt. That’s why we’re not able to summon and require people to serve on a jury,” Browning explained.
He had intended to bring the case to the grand jury in March before matters worsened and the virus shut down several businesses and normal activities.
Keais was hit by a vehicle driven by Ralph “Ryan” Dover III while riding his bicycle on North Main Street across from the Dollar General Market in Cedartown around 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2019.
According to a report from Polk County Coroner Tony Brazier, Dover called attorney and state Rep. Trey Kelley and not 911. After Kelley arrived and looked over Dover’s vehicle, he then called Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome to send an officer out to see what Dover had hit.
It was more than an hour before Keais was discovered by a Cedartown police officer and rushed to the hospital, where he died while medical personnel fought to save his life.
Two public rallies have been held calling for justice in the case. So far Dover has not been officially charged with any crime and has not been arrested in relation to the incident.
Melton’s order was set to expire at midnight on Tuesday, Aug. 11, but Browning said it was “very likely” to be extended another 30 days into September.