Maryland courts will resume holding jury trials, Monday, Oct. 5, entering the final phase of the courts system’s COVID-19 reopening plans according to the Maryland Judiciary.
Courts in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia have continued to perform most functions since the March outbreak of the coronavirus, but jury trials across all three jurisdictions were temporarily put on hold.
“Jury trials require the assembly of large groups of citizens in order to allow the selection of an impartial jury,” said Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera, of the Maryland Court of Appeals. “New courtroom layouts include plexiglass shields and distanced seating.”
In a video produced by the court system, courtrooms, jury assembly rooms and jury deliberation rooms have been reconfigured to maximize social distancing.
Seating is limited in courtrooms. Since jury selection for a high-profile case can require a pool of more than a hundred potential jurors, “additional rooms and buildings may be utilized to allow social distancing as required.”
While Montgomery and Prince George’s County’s Circuit Court buildings contain dozens of courtrooms, most courthouses are much smaller: “Jurors and court visitors should note that jury environments will differ by jurisdictions due to the differences in the various circuit court building layouts.”
Currently, people entering Maryland courthouses must wear a mask, answer questions about COVID-19-related symptoms, and submit to a contactless thermometer temperature check. Those conditions will continue, as jury trials resume.
In Virginia, individual court systems must submit plans for restarting jury trials. So far, circuit courts in Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince William and Stafford, among others, have been cleared to hold jury trials again with safety measures in place.
In D.C., jury trials in Superior Court remain paused.
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