Online Trials May Not Be a Good Alternative to Delayed Jury Trials

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Connecticut criminal law attorney for jury trialsDue to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and state courts in Connecticut have once again delayed the date when jury trials can resume. State trials had previously been scheduled to resume in November of 2020, but they were rescheduled to December 31, and following another delay, the dates for when they can resume are currently uncertain. Federal trials had been scheduled to resume on February 1, 2021, but that date has been delayed to May 3. These delays mean that those who are awaiting a trial on criminal charges will be forced to wait longer until their cases can be resolved. 

To address these delays, courts in some states have taken steps to conduct trials virtually using video conferencing software and other online tools. However, many criminal defense attorneys and criminal justice advocates have raised concerns about these types of trials, since they present a number of issues that may affect a person’s right to receive a fair trial.

Problems With Online Trials

To avoid the risks of conducting trials in person, video conferencing apps such as Zoom may be used, allowing attorneys, defendants, jurors, and other personnel to participate in a trial from a remote location. However, this presents a number of concerns related to the procedures that are followed during a trial and the ability of all parties to participate.

Technology-related concerns are one of the primary issues that are likely to affect online trials. With multiple people connecting to a video conferencing app from a variety of locations and using different types of devices, it is likely that connection problems will occur. Frozen screens, interrupted connections, computer viruses, difficulties understanding how to use programs correctly, and other issues related to computer hardware or software may affect jurors’ ability to hear testimony or review evidence.

Access to technology is another key issue that may affect online trials. Some potential jurors may not have high-speed internet access in their homes, or they may not own devices that would allow them to connect to video conferencing tools during a trial. This can have a significant effect on a defendant’s ability to be tried before a jury of their peers, especially since those with lower incomes and people of color are more likely to be eliminated from consideration as jurors because of these issues.

Even if technology is working correctly, virtual trials have a number of other limitations that may affect a defendant’s ability to reach a fair outcome. When witnesses are providing testimony, jurors may have difficulty judging their body language, since their view may be restricted to a witness’s face or upper body. Jurors’ ability to review evidence will also be limited; while documents, photos, or videos may be shared using online tools, jurors will not be able to touch physical evidence or view objects in person, making it more difficult to properly evaluate these items and consider the role they play in a case.

Contact a Connecticut Criminal Defense Lawyer

In addition to the issues outlined above, there are a variety of other concerns about how online trials may affect the rights of defendants. If you are facing criminal charges, the Woolf Law Firm, LLC can help you take steps to protect your rights, and we will work with you to determine your best options for defense. Contact our Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney today at 860-290-8690 to arrange a complimentary consultation.

Sources:

https://www.law.com/ctlawtribune/2021/01/22/postponed-again-federal-jury-trials-wont-resume-in-connecticut-for-months/

https://www.law.com/texaslawyer/2020/09/29/zoom-jury-trials-the-idea-vastly-exceeds-the-technology/

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