Trials often require a lot from their jurors, but risking health and safety is just too much to ask from the citizens called for that service.
Thankfully, our judges, prosecutors and attorneys understand that.
In early September District Judge Jack Marr attempted the first jury trial in the Crossroads since the pandemic began with an impressive array of COVID-19 precautions. Orange string socially distanced seating, bailiffs asked jurors about their health, temperature checks were administered and plastic face shields were doled out.
But when a prospective juror learned midway through the jury selection process that she had just tested positive for the coronavirus from a rapid test administered that morning, prosecutors asked the trial be canceled.
The defense agreed and so did Marr, the judge. Although jury duty is a privilege to many, it is also a civic duty. While some may find it boring, demanding of time and otherwise inconvenient, the mandatory service should not require jurors to risk their lives, especially considering some may be much more at risk of the disease.
Imagine sitting in a room with 11 other strangers and about that many or more attorneys, witnesses and court staff hour after after hour and day after day for as long as a week or more.
Considering COVID-19’s contagiousness and ability to be passed on from people who show no symptoms at all, the potential risks for infection are immense.
If this pandemic has taught us anything, one lesson should be that the virus will surge when we let our guards down.
Texas and Crossroads judges so far have a strong record for erring on the side of caution during the pandemic. Despite a growing backlog in cases, in-person trials have been placed on hold for months and the most-extreme safety precautions have been taken in courtrooms. Zoom hearings have risen in importance and are being used at a wholly unprecedented level.
As COVID-19 case counts and deaths continue to rise in the Crossroads, it’s becoming more arguable that those precautions may have saved lives.