We are facing an unprecedented public health crisis in the United States, at least in any of our lifetimes. Everyone is aware that there is an epidemic sweeping across the globe that is making people sick, and in thousands of cases causing fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with the World Health Organization (WHO), has instructed us to stay away from large groups of people. Any place where one might come in contact with COVID-19 or Coronavirus should be avoided.
Life in America is vastly different than it was just a short time ago. However, we have a criminal justice system and Americans have the right to speedy trials and due process. Since twelve jurors are unlikely to want to be in close proximity to perfect strangers, naturally, the pandemic is presenting significant problems for the California legal system.
Criminal Justice During a Pandemic
Last week in Los Angeles, the nation’s busiest courthouse had to grapple with the safety of their jurors. During a murder trial, the jurors requested that the judge allow them to sit apart; the judge acquiesced to their wishes, The Los Angeles Times reports. The jurors were granted the right to sit with a vacant seat separating each member.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, courts across the state have taken several measures to safeguard attorneys, defendants, and jurors, according to the article. Such measures include trial delays, excusing elderly jurors who may be more susceptible to contraction, and temporarily closing courthouses in some cases altogether.
However, the wheels of justice must continue to turn regardless of what the nation faces. Still, delays are an inevitability. Orange County will not start new civil trials until the first of May. Since no court has ever dealt with this kind of situation, it’s hard for judges and county officials to decide the best course of action while still considering the rights afforded by the constitution.
“You can’t just shut down the public safety function in a crisis,” said Michele Hanisee, president of the union representing Los Angeles County deputy district attorneys. “We cannot deprive those accused of a crime their due process rights. The courts have to keep working.”
Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney
At the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower, we are hopeful that all of our current and former clients are following public health guidelines to protect their health. We are also keeping ourselves informed about how best to protect our clients’ safety and their rights. We are working closely with the courts to stay apprised of proper procedures during this public health crisis.
Please contact us today if you need legal assistance for a criminal charge.