Jury trials on pause in the U.P. as COVID-19 numbers rise

MARQUETTE COUNTY, Mich. (WBUP) — COVID-19 is creating a backlog in the criminal justice system. The last jury trials in Marquette County was seven months ago.

Our justice system hinges on the idea that we are innocent until proven guilty, which causes major issues for those who are incarcerated.

Constitutional issues come into play with the right to a speedy trial as well as the right to a public trial.

Another issue is the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that remote testimony does not satisfy the confrontation clause of the constitution. So unless the defendant agrees to waive that right, it has to be done live and in-person.

If the defendant does agree, the amount of people allowed in a courtroom is limited.

The plan was to restart jury trials in October, however with the recent uptick in Covid-19 cases, the Director of Court Operations told me that they are currently in a holding pattern as they wait to hear back from the health department.

Once they get word from the health department, judges have to confirm the new plan to ensure everyone can stay safe during the jury process and at trials. Until then, it looks like the jury is out.