Southern District again suspends jury trials due to COVID-19

Jury trials in all divisions of the Southern District of Indiana have once again been suspended, Chief Judge Jane E. Magnus-Stinson announced Wednesday. The decision stems from the recent rise in COVID-19 cases across the state and within the district following a brief resumption of jury trials.

The chief judge issued an order Wednesday suspending jury trials in all divisions — Indianapolis, Evansville, New Albany and Terre Haute — through at least August 31. Subject to further order of the district court, some jury trials may resume on September 1, the order says.

While jury trials have been suspended, the courthouses remain open and other in-person proceedings, including plea and sentencing hearings, are taking place. The Southern District announced last month that its federal courthouses would reopen to the public July 6  and in-person court proceedings would begin resuming on a staggered schedule.

Certain limitations and restrictions established in previous orders remain in effect,

Wednesday’s order says. That includes the mandatory wearing of face coverings in all public spaces, with the exception for individuals with medical exemptions, or those excused from wearing a face covering in a courtroom by the presiding judge.

Screening and other requirements set forth in the district court’s March 20 order also remain in effect, with the understanding that the screening questions may change based upon guidance by public health officials and as knowledge about the symptoms of COVID-19 develops.

Additionally, the district court announced that it also continues to hold certain proceedings, such as initial appearances and detention hearings, as well as civil conferences, via video conference and telephonically.

The announcement comes as state and federal courts have worked to resume jury trials while observing social distancing and other coronavirus safeguards.

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