As the coronavirus continues to spread in Idaho, the Idaho Supreme Court has extended its delay of criminal jury trials into September, and pushed back all civil jury trials into December.
The order, issued Friday, means no criminal jury trials can take place before Sept. 14, and no civil jury trials can take place before Dec. 1, “due to the continuing rise in positive COVID-19 cases throughout Idaho,” according to the order.
In addition to that, people over the age of 65 years old can be excluded from jury duty if they wish to be. This provision is a recommendation from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, which put together a list of guidelines for courtrooms and juries, according to the order.
The delay is included in an order Idaho’s highest court issued on Friday. Under a previous order from April, jury trials in criminal cases were set to resume on Aug. 3, and jury trials in civil cases could resume on Oct. 5.
The order justices issued Friday also requires jury commissioners to send out a COVID-19 questionnaire alongside each jury summons. The questionnaire is included with the court’s order. The questionnaire consists of 10 questions about a person’s risk of contracting COVID-19, and asks if they are currently experiencing symptoms of the illness caused by the coronavirus.
The court’s order also includes guidelines for jury trials when they do resume, such as the implementation of social distancing measures. When a witness testifies, they may wear a face shield, or testify from behind a transparent barrier if the judge allows it, according to the order. This would allow people in the courtroom to see the witness’s facial expressions; jurors are allowed to consider a witness’s demeanor when deliberating.
The order also requires easy access to hand sanitizer and bleach wipes in the courtroom and jury room.
“Access to a sanitation station where hands can be washed with soap and water must be available within the building,” according to the order.
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