Jury trials to resume

The Kansan
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Jury trials will resume at the Harvey County Courthouse after COVID-19 placed the proceedings on hold. 

t jury trial is scheduled for May 19 and 20 and a second is scheduled for May 26 and 27. The two cases are both felony cases. There are 16 additional jury trials scheduled through the end of 2021.

The Supreme Court authorized local courts to return to jury trials after creation and submission of a detailed plan outlining the steps the court would take to protect juror and litigant safety while still protecting the legal rights of all parties. Harvey County submitted its plan to the Kansas Supreme Court late last month.

Our new protocol is a significant change from the way we previously handled every aspect of a jury trial, but we are confident the protocol is effective,” said Chief Judge Joe Dickinson. “Judge Marilyn Wilder and legal intern Jessica Van Rankin put significant time and effort into developing this protocol with an emphasis on keeping all participants and jurors safe. We are confident we can now safely resume jury trials.”

In the past twelve months, the court spent funds received for COVID relief to install plexiglass barriers in all courtrooms and to install audio-visual equipment for electronic display of evidence, as well as additional microphones and sound equipment. The courtrooms are also now equipped for virtual hearings and to live-stream matters of public interest when conducting a virtual hearing or when the courtroom space is not adequate for the public to watch in person. The court system also purchased masks and clear plastic face shields, as the Kansas Supreme Court still requires masks to be worn in all court offices and court rooms.

As part of the protocol, jurors will not be seated in the jury box as there is not adequate space for social distancing; rather, the jurors will sit in the gallery and spectators will have to watch from another courtroom or in another location via video. The attorneys will face the jurors in the gallery and have their backs to the judge overseeing the trial. The judge will be able to monitor activity by use of a camera in the back of the courtroom. The jury rooms in which jurors typically take breaks and deliberate are too small to allow for social distancing so the jury will deliberate in the courtroom at the conclusion of evidence. Procedures are in place to ensure that the deliberations remain confidential and to prevent anyone from entering the courtroom while the jury is deliberating.