Jury trials resume this week in Jasper County District Court and across the state. The resumption follows a couple of pilot trials to try out social distancing and COVID-19 prevention measures. Supreme Court Justice Matthew McDermott co-chaired the committee which reviewed and made recommendations on the issue — and says they surveyed the judges.
The committee has recommended clear shields to be worn in the courtrooms so jurors can both see and hear witnesses in the trials. McDermott says that was one issue they had to be sure worked.
Jurors in the pilot gave an average score of four-point-eight-eight out on a scale where five was the best in how well they could see the proceedings. There was a concern that more jurors would not show up because of the pandemic — but McDermott says that was not the case.
McDermott says they will watch for outbreaks in particular counties as part of the monitoring as the jury trials resume. He says the judges in each trial will make the decisions on proceeding, and it’s hard to tell when each court may be caught up.
There is a protocol for which cases will be heard. McDermott says some counties are going to be dealing with criminal cases — because that’s kind of the first priority of case that needs to be dealt with. Other counties where they maybe aren’t quite the backlog on criminal cases, they’ll be moving to civil cases.”