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Michigan's largest circuit court prepares to resume jury trials in-person

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Posted at 5:38 AM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 05:39:50-04

WAYNE COUNTY, Mich. (WXYZ) — The state's largest circuit court is preparing to resume jury trials in just a few weeks.

The coronavirus pandemic drastically reduced court cases in Wayne County beginning in March, according to the chief judge.

Chief Judge Timothy Kenny says there are normally 19 judges conducting jury trials.

That stopped in March, and now there is a backlog.

On Sept. 21, court will resume with two judges and new protocols for potential jurors.

"If you were summoned as a juror and you showed up at the front door of the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice what would your experience look like?" asked Hon. Timothy Kenny.

Wayne County 3rd Circuit Court Chief Judge Timothy Kenny says this video answers that question.

Wayne County Circuit Court: Juror Health and Safety Video

He says the court produced it to show potential jurors what to expect and what's expected of them come Sept. 21 when jury trials resume.

"When jurors come for their jury service, there will be someone, a healthcare provider who will be using a touchless thermometer to make sure that no one has a fever above a 100.4. People will be asked questions about symptoms," Kenny said.

There will also be a bag with masks, gloves, wipes and a face shield available. Plexiglass is also set up.

Significant changes from March when the pandemic all but shut down court.

"We really were reduced to essential services," said Kenny.

He says pre-pandemic between 150 and 175 potential jurors gathered in the jury assembly room on a Monday. Now that number will be down to about 50.

Two judges will conduct jury trials instead of 19.

He says this plan first had to be approved by the state court Adminstrator's office. But it's uncertain how long the court will be in this phase.

"We are going to be dealing with this issue I think clearly in 2021. How far into '21 I would say is probably anyone's guess," he said.

The public is still not allowed in but can catch the hearings online.

Also if you have COVID-related concerns and serving as a juror, the judge says the court will work with you.