Cuyahoga County courthouse prepares for jury trials to resume in COVID-19 era

Published: Sep. 14, 2020 at 6:43 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The judges of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court General Division will resume jury trials on Monday, Sept. 21.

The court was prepared to move forward with jury trials on Monday, Aug. 10, but the judges opted to extend the delay that began in March amid the growing pandemic positive test numbers.

The court has implemented a number of new protocols and procedures for jurors coming to serve.

Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan said “before COVID we brought in mass quantities of jurors and they waited in the 4th floor jury room.”

Now that will all change. He said “now, we’re bringing in jurors per panel. So any case that comes in that jury panel is for that one case.”

There are also now plexiglass dividers between each juror seat and limited seating in the courtrooms.

Jurors will report to the Global Center for Health Innovation, which has been sitting mostly empty during the pandemic.

They will get their temperature taken there and receive a mask and bag with hand sanitizer and other necessities. That’s where the majority of waiting and deliberating will take place. They will also hold some court proceedings in the massive ball rooms. Sheehan said “we’ve done everything possible to allow a trial to be able to go forward in Cuyahoga County. One of the things that I want to stress is our jurors are the backbone of our system.” Since the pandemic began, the system has accumulated a huge backlog of cases.

He said there are at least 1,200 indictments they need to move along for defendants and victims as safely and effectively as possible. “When people get that summons and they’re being asked to serve we believe they are the most valuable person in our courthouse. We want them to feel like they’re V.I.P., so we’re rolling out the red carpet. We’re anxious to get them back in the building. We need them,” said Sheehan.

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