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Coronavirus precautions taken as jury trial takes place in Dayton

A jury trial took place in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court
A jury trial took place in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court

A man was found guilty Monday afternoon during what has become rare: a Montgomery County jury trial.

Michael Allen, 34, was convicted of improper handling of a firearm in a motor vehicle. He is due back in court in August for sentencing, according to court staff.

The case is one of the few to be heard by a local jury since April, when the judges unanimously agreed to postpone jury trials because of COVID-19 until it was safe for jurors and court staff. On June 26, the judges issued their latest order suspending jury trials until the end of July.

Montgomery County has first jury trial since coronavirus outbreak

The one-day jury trial took place on Monday anyway because the administrative order allows for jury trials if “unique and unavoidable circumstances are presented and considered on a case-by-case basis.” It mandates that precautions be taken during trials to avoid the spread of coronavirus.

An order issued by Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Gerald Parker before the trial began laid out precautions the court was taking.

Those precautions included having groups of potential jury members stay in two rooms during the selection process. Typically, before the coronavirus outbreak, a jury pool could see upwards of 50 people inside the courtroom sitting side-by-side waiting to be selected. The jurors in the second courtroom were allowed to watch what was taking place in the courtroom via a live stream.

Also different was where the jurors were to sit during the trial, according to the order. The jurors were given an option to sit in the jury box or in the gallery to promote social distancing.

Jurors, the defendant and lawyers were also required to wear a mask during the trial, the order says. The precautions also allowed for the defendant and his lawyer to leave the courtroom to discuss strategy.

Jurors were also to deliberate in the courtroom instead of a jury room to again promote social distancing.