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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.

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Hartford criminal law attorney for jury trialsThe coronavirus pandemic has affected the legal system in many ways, and some defendants have been left in limbo as they await a trial. To protect public safety, the courts in Connecticut have significantly reduced their capacity, and no criminal jury trials have been held in the state since March of 2020. While courts have taken protective measures and planned to begin holding trials, continued concerns about COVID-19 infections have delayed proceedings, and multiple cases involving court employees who have been infected have led some to call for the closure of courts for the time being. Because of this, many criminal defense attorneys are concerned about how this ongoing situation will affect the rights of defendants.

Delays in Trials Due to Difficulty Finding Jurors

The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that those in the United States who are facing criminal charges have the right to a speedy, public trial before an impartial jury. Postponing criminal trials indefinitely would violate the rights of defendants, so courts have been working to determine how to resume these trials while still protecting the safety of everyone involved, including defendants, judges, attorneys, jurors, witnesses, and others who would be present in court.

Courts have taken steps to protect the safety of those who would be present during trials. These include requiring masks for everyone involved in a trial and following social distancing guidelines, as well as installing equipment to circulate clean air into courtrooms. However, the primary issue that is delaying trials is the difficulty of finding people who are willing to serve as jurors. Many people who have been contacted for jury service have not responded to summons, or they have asked to be excused because of concerns that they or their family members could be at risk of COVID-19 infections.

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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been felt by nearly every single person living in the United States at one point since the start of it all back in March. Even if you never actually got the coronavirus yourself, you likely had to alter your usual routine in some way because of the pandemic. For a length of time, Connecticut’s judicial system was running on minimum operations with the majority of courthouses closed to the general public to adhere to the Governor’s statewide shutdown order. As the courthouses have begun to reopen and the judicial system has begun to increase its caseload, many people are wondering when and how criminal jury trials will proceed. In many jurisdictions, cases that do not involve juries, such as divorces and other civil cases, have been successfully settled using virtual means. Some have wondered if that is paving the way for the inevitable: virtual criminal jury trials.

Issues with Virtual Criminal Jury Trials

Many of a courthouse’s day-to-day operations are not conducive to a post-pandemic world -- at least not yet. Now that the majority of Connecticut’s courthouses are open for staff and visitors, one of the only things that officials are scrambling to figure out is what to do about criminal jury trials. The possibility of virtual criminal jury trials taking place in Connecticut is becoming increasingly larger with each passing day of the pandemic. It is clear that we have the technology and the capability of conducting virtual jury trials, but virtual jury trials come with issues and downfalls of their own, such as:

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Connecticut criminal defense lawyer coronavirus COVID-19For the past couple of months, the world has been battling COVID-19, a virus that led the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a pandemic for the first time in history. Worldwide cases have reached more than 600,000, while the number of cases in the United States has topped 160,000. COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus, is a disease that causes respiratory illness, characterized by flu-like symptoms along with a cough, chest tightness, and/or shortness of breath. Most people recover from the disease without complications, but those with underlying health conditions or those who are over the age of 60 are more likely to develop serious complications.

The spread of COVID-19 across the U.S. has prompted many state and local officials to halt non-essential business operations. Some locations have issued stay-at-home orders, prohibiting residents from leaving their homes except for essential activities. This has led to a change in how even the most basic of operations are run, including how the court systems will operate during this trying time. If you have an outstanding criminal or civil case, you should speak to an attorney to determine how you should proceed.

Changes in Court Cases

While some of Connecticut’s courts are still open, they are operating at a limited capacity and only conducting essential business. As per Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7G, the courts will only schedule and hear matters that are considered to be “Priority 1 Business Functions.” These include:

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