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Jury trials to resume Monday with safeguards in place

Posted at 5:19 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 13:08:11-04

CINCINNATI — Jury trials will resume Aug. 3 in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court with safeguards against COVID-19 in place to protect attendees, the presiding judge announced Wednesday.

Three courtrooms have been “specially adapted” to ensure social distancing, Judge Charles K. Kubicki Jr. said in a release.

In June, WCPO 9 reported that newly installed plexiglass panels would separate jurors in the jury box, and everyone except witnesses would be required to wear a mask. Kubicki said the changes will mean fewer trials happen at once, and attorneys will have 30 to 35 potential jurors to choose from in each case.

Attorneys in multiple cases used to have hundreds of people to choose from every day, so if suspects don't like those odds, they can waive their right to a speedy trial.

"Health is the most important thing, so if there's anybody who has any concerns about it - that includes prospective jurors -they'll be excused," Kubicki said.

To be excused, prospective jurors should follow the directions on the jury commissioner's web page.

According to the release, jurors will not report to the courthouse “unless we know they will be needed for a jury trial,” Kubicki said.

“I am asking the judges to only request a panel of jurors when there are assurances the case is ready for trial,” Kubicki said.

Kubicki said jury summons letters never stopped going out to the public, so call the phone number on your summons or check online before you come each day to see if your service is required.

A judge may also grant a continuance if the state requests it or if one of the specially-adapted courtrooms is not available, Kubicki said.

Kubicki's release said the resumption is necessary because the Ohio Supreme Court’s March 27 order tolling time for court proceedings expires on Thursday.

Prosecutor Joe Deters and Chief Public Defender Raymond Faller issued statements approving of Kubicki’s plan to resume trials Monday.

“I have been in contact with other judges as well as prosecutors and defense attorneys to make sure that we have all the input necessary to safely resume jury trials,” Kubicki said.

Kubicki's release noted that everyone entering the courthouse must have their temperature taken.

In addition, the state requires masks to be worn in public buildings.