By Linh Nguyen
SACRAMENTO — Criminal jury trials and jury services will be temporarily delayed in Sacramento County in response to Governor Newsom’s latest “stay at home” order, according to a statement issued late Friday.
Sacramento Superior Court has temporarily suspended criminal jury trials and jury service until Dec. 25, 2020. Any “in progress trials” will remain in session.
In late November, the Yolo County Superior Court also issued a notice to jurors, telling those who received a jury summons to not appear if they were summoned between Nov. 30 through Dec. 29, 2020. Yolo County has also suspended all in-person jury trials through Christmas.
The San Francisco County Superior Court has not announced any changes to their court proceedings. The county’s superior court resumed court services on June 1, enacting various changes to accommodate for safety guidelines, after reducing certain court operations on March 17.
“The court is deemed an ‘essential service’ and will in all other areas of court operations remain open to the public and serve the public through remote means,” Judge Russell L. Hom, presiding judge of the Sacramento Superior Court, said in a statement, adding, “The court is committed to reducing the number of people in our facilities to protect the public, judicial officers and employees.”
This pause is in direct response to the rapidly escalating COVID-19 conditions in the nation, as cases and hospitalization rates surge higher than at any point thus far since March.
Governor Newsom first declared a state of emergency on Mar. 4, 2020, resulting in a state judicial council-approved shutdown in the county’s superior court the same month. Active trials were suspended and thousands of criminal and civil cases were delayed. All 58 other counties in the state enacted the same shut downs, moving operations via telecommunication.
After nearly three months, Sacramento County Superior Court reopened and began new jury selection and limited resumed trials on June 15. The courthouse practiced CDC safety guidelines, including social distancing in the building, temperature checks, mandatory masks, smaller jury pools and staggering hearings.
Six months later, the county superior court is suspending services again due to worsening COVID-19 conditions. However, all other court activities, including sentencing, preliminary hearings and bail hearings, will continue but on livestreaming Zoom only.
In the meantime, detained criminal defendants awaiting trial and hearings will remain in the county jail, where COVID-19 conditions are similarly dangerous, worsened by negligent jail staff and insufficient means of protection against the virus, according to media reports and pleadings by the Sacramento County Public Defender.
As of Dec. 4, 2020, there have been 41,096 cases—the county sheriff was diagnosed this week—in Sacramento County and 614 deaths. The county is in the purple tier.
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