Montgomery County judges further postpone jury trials through May

Montgomery County Common Pleas Court judges won’t hear jury trials for at least another two weeks due to the coronavirus after they agreed to extend a previous order.

The first order issued by the judges in April postponed jury trials through the end of last week. At the time, the order said that the suspension of jury trials was necessary for the court to maintain essential functions, as a spread of coronavirus in the court would compromise public and staff health.

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It’s not uncommon for potential jury pools to be upward of 50 or 60 people who must sit in a room close to each other while they are either rejected or selected to serve during a trial.

The new order cites similar concerns.

“Upon due consideration of the foregoing, it is hereby ordered, by unanimous consent of the 11 judges of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, general division, that its order of April 6, 2020, suspending all jury trials, is continued in full force and effect until 11:59 p.m. May 31, 2020, unless this order is rescinded or modified at a sooner time and date,” the order says.

Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Administrator Steven Hollen said the judges want to be cautious and think about everything before opening up. Numerous jury trials have been continued because of the order, Hollen said, but it is unclear how many would have actually went to trial if it wasn’t for coronavirus. It’s not uncommon for trials to be continued or canceled after two sides come to an agreement before it starts.

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The common pleas court, which hears felony cases and civil cases where large sums of money is disputed, isn’t the only court that has moved to postpone jury trials. Municipal courts across Montgomery County have also canceled jury trials. The Montgomery County Municipal Court, which serves Dayton, won’t have trials until July 30, or until the governor’s declaration of emergency ends.

The move to further postpone jury trials is another example of how coronavirus has shaken the justice system in the region. The pandemic has caused judges to free hundreds of inmates from the Montgomery County Jail, hearings to be continued, inmates to appear in court via telecommunications instead of in-person and even caused a judge to postpone sending a sex offender to prison, like in the Preble County case involving former Ohio State Highway Patrol Trooper Christopher Ward.

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