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Jury Trials Delayed Until Sept. 21 In Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court

Jury trials in Cuyahoga County won’t resume until at least Sept. 21 after Common Pleas Court judges on Monday voted to extend a moratorium that was expected to be lifted next week.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Administrative and Presiding Judge Brendan Sheehan said the recent resurgence in COVID-19 numbers convinced the judges that Aug. 10 was too early to bring back juries.

“We are concerned for public health and safety. We understand the defendants’ right to speedy trial, however, we balance that with the safety of the community,” he said. “After talking to all the partners, the judges voted today to extend the time.”

The partners include Chief Public Defender Mark Stanton; Nancy Jamieson, president of the Cuyahoga Criminal Defense Lawyers Association; and County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley. Each had written to the court expressing concerns about safety.

Three of the Justice Center’s 34 Common Pleas courtrooms have been fitted with Plexiglas shields to make trial safer for jurors, defendants, lawyers and court personnel. The plan is to have half the court rooms so equipped and that work will continue, Sheehan said.

“We have put a lot of time and effort into this to make sure everyone is safe, but with these number so high, the bench decided this was right direction to go,” Sheehan said.

The Sept. 21 start date will be re-evaluated no later than Aug. 24, according to the court’s order.

The moratorium applies to criminal and civil jury trials. Bench trials, in which a judge renders a decision and there is no jury, can still be conducted with proper virus safety protocols.

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