XENIA — Greene County Common Pleas Court judges are gearing up for the day jury trials will again be on the docket.
For now, those trials are postponed — but the court remains open, continuing to serve citizens.
“We want the residents of our community to know that during this state of emergency, all of our courts are working diligently to keep the civil and criminal matters before each court moving forward,” Judge Stephen A. Wolaver said Thursday. “Our judges have been creative in working during these difficult times to see that justice continues to be served.”
Wolaver said many employees, as well as the judges, are working remotely and are on limited schedules, but legal cases continue to be heard. In a temporary order issued March 13, he authorized the use of audiovisual devices and technologies for actions and proceedings and left the continuance of trials and hearings up to each judge.
“The orders from the governor limiting activities specifically did not exempt jury trials; however, Judge Buckwalter and Judge Wolaver chose to temporarily postpone jury trials under the current circumstances,” a release from the court states.
“We know that a jury trial is a constitutional right and must be preserved even during this unique, trying time,” Buckwalter added.
According to the judges, criminal courts will begin scheduling cases for jury trial “sometime in the near future.”
“We have been looking closely on how to take affirmative steps towards addressing the issues the pandemic has raised, and at the same time insure that a fair and impartial trial is accomplished,” Wolaver said.
When jury trials begin again, court officials said they plan to contact jurors in advance to answer any questions about jury service they may have; provide hand sanitizer, masks and gloves if requested, or permit jurors to bring their own; make other sanitizing products available, and afford jurors the opportunity to wash their hands often. Social distancing will be implemented for jurors, and all juror areas and courtroom facilities will be regularly cleaned and sanitized.
“These practices are evolving and will be reviewed and supplemented on an ongoing basis,” Wolaver said, adding that it is important to make sure jurors and trial participants feel “safe and comfortable while exercising this most important constitutional duty of the criminal justice system.”
“We are in unchartered waters as we all know, yet until we get the green light reflecting that the pandemic is under control, these are the measures we must undertake to insure the that the people of our county continue to receive justice in our court system in the most safe and responsible way,” the judges said in a joint statement.
Any prospective jurors who have received a summons for future service can call the jury commissioner at any time if they have any questions.
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