Photo provided
People sign in for the jury panel and they watch the orientation video. There were 20 people in the jury panel.
Photo provided People sign in for the jury panel and they watch the orientation video. There were 20 people in the jury panel.
New safety measures were put in place to prevent COVID-19 exposure.
Jury trials have resumed in Hamilton County with a host of new safety measures to ensure the safety of the judges, jurors, attorneys, parties, and witnesses. Jury trials were suspended March 18th in the State of Indiana pursuant to the Order of the Indiana Supreme Court.
“Our constitution did not take a holiday during the pandemic,” Hamilton Superior Court 6 Judge Gail Bardach said. “People do still have the right to have their cases tried and heard. It is time to resume implementing and honoring those rights.”
In order to fill a jury, more jurors have been and will be summoned than in the past to account for those who request to be excused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon entering the Judicial Center, potential jurors will have their temperatures taken and will be asked a number of COVID-19 related health questions. All parties involved will be required to wear masks for the entirety of the trial.
“Recent times have been difficult,” said Hamilton Superior Court 4 Judge Richard Campbell who conducted the county’s first jury trial on Thursday, July 23rd. “We all have concerns about our safety especially when gathering. We would like the public to know that we take their health and safety very seriously.”
To ensure social distancing, jurors are spaced at least six feet apart in the courtroom. Once the jury and an alternate have been selected, they will be given two jury rooms for breaks and will use the jury assembly room for meals and deliberation to ensure proper social distancing.
In the past three weeks, Judge Campbell has conducted two jury trials and Judge Bardach has conducted one. These were the first jury trials held in Hamilton County since March. Both judges commented that the jurors selected felt comfortable and were appreciative of the safety measures the courts took to keep them safe.
“We expect some will still be uncomfortable with the circumstances,” Judge Bardach said. “We understand that, but also want to thank prospective jurors in advance for meeting the special challenges of our world today. It is especially important that they serve to guarantee that anyone on trial is assured their constitutional and personal right to be tried by a jury.”
In addition to the precautions listed above, all prospective jurors will be given their own hand sanitizer to use throughout the day. Additional bottles of hand sanitizer will be spread throughout the courtroom, jury rooms, and the jury assembly room. Court staff will use a disinfecting spray to sanitize surfaces in the courtroom throughout jury selection and the trial itself.