Allen Superior Court halts jury trials until out of COVID-19 ‘red’ status

The Allen Superior Court is halting jury trials until at least Jan. 11 due to the ongoing surge in COVID-19 infections in the community, the court announced Tuesday.

The Fort Wayne courts’ pause on jury trials will last until Allen County is no longer classified as a “red” county on the Indiana State Department of Health’s COVID-19 Dashboard and Map. Each county on the color-coded map is assigned a color based on the number of weekly cases per 100,000 and a seven-day positivity rate.

“The court has gone to extraordinary steps to protect people entering its facilities, in particular those who have been called for jury duty,” said Judge Frances Gull, administrative judge of Superior Court’s Criminal Division. “But the most prudent thing we can do right now is to suspend jury trials entirely until it’s safer to ask people to come to the courthouse.”

As of Tuesday, approximately 40 jury trials were scheduled on the Allen Superior Court calendar through Jan. 8, 2021. Although jury trials will be on hold, bench trials, sentencings and guilty pleas can take place as scheduled during this period.

Courts across the state have been encouraged by the Indiana Supreme Court to suspend in-person criminal and civil jury trials and to conduct as many other proceedings as possible via remote means. Allen County courts have been conducting many types of hearings by phone and by video since the beginning of the pandemic, the announcement says.

Beginning Nov. 23, access to Allen County court facilities had already been restricted to prospective jurors, attorneys, litigants, court staff and those having business with the clerk of the courts.

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