Saturday, October 24, 2020

Ingham County Circuit and Probate Courts delay all jury trials until November

October 1, 2020
<p>Front view of the 54B District Court from Linden Street. Shot on Sept. 10, 2020. </p>

Front view of the 54B District Court from Linden Street. Shot on Sept. 10, 2020.

Photo by Lauren DeMay | The State News

Due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in Ingham County, Richard J. Garcia, chief judge of the 30th Circuit Court and the Ingham County Probate Court issued an order halting jury trials in the two courts until November.

The order was issued Sept. 29 and cites the Michigan Supreme Court's recent changes to the guidelines on safely conducting jury trials as well as Ingham County's current health data.

The Supreme Court's State Court Administrative Office revised its guidelines on allowing jury trials on Sept. 25. These new changes require that before a court can consider conducting a jury trial, it must determine that the seven-day COVID-19 case average is less than 70 cases per million per day in that county and that it must have a less than 10% positive diagnostic tests, or fewer than 20 new cases per day over the previous seven days.

Once this criteria has been met, the chief judge may determine whether a jury trial would create an excessive risk to public health.

The order from Garcia shows that Ingham County currently exceeds these minimal standards for COVID-19 cases per million per day and total cases per day. The order also states that the local health officials have a general concern regarding the community's current health data.

"The seven day average in Ingham County is well beyond the 70, it's above 100," Garcia said. "The second metric is maybe you only have 20 cases a day, we have well over 30. So, because of the spike in the number of cases we're not able to conduct any jury trials until we're able to string together a seven-day period of time where those metrics make sense."

Garcia said that in a criminal trial they can have up to 16 jurors called in, and even though they try and social distance, they will be together for a significant amount of time and that he feels it is unsafe to do so at this time.

Due to the requirements set by the Michigan Supreme Court and the number of cases in Ingham County, Garcia has ordered that the 30th Circuit Court and the Ingham County Probate Court will not be able to conduct any jury trials until Nov. 2.

Anyone scheduled for trials before Nov. 2 is not required to report.

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