Protesters picket police department

Braving brisk temperatures and a slight breeze, Jeremy Williams paced back and forth in front of the Jonesboro Police Department, Thursday, to protest being shut out of Municipal Court proceedings.

Jonesboro resident, Williams, and three others carried signs demanding to be allowed inside the police department's courtroom.

"There may be things we don't know, but we do know the Constitution, and our right to be let inside the courtroom," said Williams. "What they are doing is against the law. You can't deny public access. They need to reschedule court, if there is an overflow issue."

Fellow picketer, Jerry King, said there is concern about people having to face the judge without familial support.

"My mother is 81, and I wouldn't want her to have to go into court alone," he said. "Set another court session, if you have to, so everyone can have access."

But Police Chief Franklin Allen said there are limits to how many people can occupy the courtroom.

"There is a capacity of 180 in the courtroom, according to the fire marshal," he said. "We first let in those who have cases before the judge, and we ask spectators to wait outside. As the courtroom thins out, we let them in. In no way whatsoever would I ever restrict anyone from going into the courtroom."

Allen said the city doesn't have resources to add a second judge or to hold court in a place that will accommodate more than 180 people.

"We share our city judge with Riverdale," said Allen. "He's handling the maximum amount of cases he can. We could have court two days a week, but the judge's schedule is limited."

Jonesboro holds Municipal Court every Thursday. The number of cases each week varies.

"The last term we had was a trial day, and there were seven cases," Allen said. "Today is arraignment day, and we had 175 cases. Next Thursday's trial calendar will probably have 20-30 cases on it. It's hard to predict the number, so I don't think there are enough to warrant a second judge."