By Kelsey Kitzke
SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco’s first post-COVID criminal jury trial began Monday morning for judge, jury, lawyers, and defendant on an alleged burglary charge, here in San Francisco County Superior Court.
In a markedly different looking courtroom than before the coronavirus hit the U.S., the judge, lawyers, and jurors convened wearing masks and separated by glass partitions to begin the first steps of defendant David Brown’s trial. The San Francisco courtroom did not begin actual trial proceedings Monday, but instead began the process of jury selection.
Brown has been charged with two counts involving an alleged burglary in August of 2019: one count of first degree residential burglary (a felony charge) and one count of receiving or possessing knowingly stolen property (a misdemeanor charge).
Among the physical changes to the courtroom, the judge notified potential jurors of the court’s scheduling adjustments for the trial: court would only meet Mondays through Thursdays and only from 9:30 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon. The judge did not explain why the court decided to limit daily time in court in exchange for a longer trial process, but like many current changes to present-day life one can suspect the court is attempting to curb the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
While many of the first questions and issues fielded at potential jury members on Monday were identical to the ones typically heard in pre-COVID times, the effects of the current pandemic did not entirely escape courtroom discussions.
One juror who identified himself as a school principal explained to the judge that he did not have time to serve on the jury because of the demands to develop reopening plans for his school.
Another juror who noted that she is the primary caregiver for her nearby elderly parents asked whether she would be able to see her parents during the month of the trial.
Jury selection is expected to proceed for two weeks with a two-week trial scheduled to begin on August 3.
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