CINCINNATI (FOX19) - The Hamilton County Courthouse is ready to welcome jurors back into the courtroom next week after the pandemic brought jury trials to a temporary halt, but jury duty won’t look quite the same.
Judge Charles Kubicki says keeping jurors safe is critical to ensuring a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
“Trial by jury is one of the most valuable rights citizens possess,” Kubicki told FOX19 NOW Monday. “And trial by jury is also one of the most valuable duties to perform."
But the pandemic has forced the Hamilton County Court System to delay hundreds of cases on top of dozens of jury trials.
Kubicki says many defendants have been waiting since the shutdown in March for their day in court.
“Right now there’s a lot of people with the inability to solve their case until they set it for trial.”
An Ohio Supreme Court order that suspended jury trials across the state expired Thursday, meaning jurors are now allowed back into the courtroom as early as Monday.
But added rules will be enforced. If a juror, victim or attorney has any health concerns, for example, under state law a trial can be delayed.
“So if he or she has any concern about their health, then that’s going to trump everything, in which case they’ll be excused,” Kubicki explained.
Around the courthouse, safeguards abound.
Entering the building everyone is already required to wear a mask and have their temperature taken. To alleviate additional concerns, three courtrooms have been adjusted with the pandemic in mind. Jurors will be seated 6 feet apart separated by plexiglass. The prosecutor will be behind a podium that’s protected by plexiglass as well.
As for Kubicki, there’s no perfect solution, but he’s ready for Monday and believes jury trials can be carried out safely.