Coronavirus poses tribulations for trials
Two major trials continue to be set out while the Douglas County court system deals with the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.
No new trial date has been set in the homicide trial of Adam Bernard, which was scheduled to begin just as the coronavirus outbreak hit.
On Monday, District Judge Tom Gregory said the month-long trial will get priority when the courts open.
“Not knowing when the courts will be open, so it’s difficult to say,” Gregory told attorneys.
On Tuesday, District Judge Tod Young vacated the June 1 trial of a man accused of molesting a child.
Jayson Kagan’s attorney, Brian Filter, said he was hopeful the case will be resolved without a trial, but that as of Tuesday that wasn’t the situation. Kagan has been in custody since March 2018.
“The jury might feel aggrieved literally at some degree that they’re putting their lives at risk,” Filter said. “There has to be some greater level of testing and greater level of security. In this jurisdiction, jurors tend to be pulled from a fairly oversampling of older residents.”
Young said the courts have had difficulty acquiring hand sanitizer for jurors.
“To have 70-80 people come in and sit next to one another would be very difficult at this time. We could move the counsel tables and put jurors in public seating, and have them spaced apart, but I think it would be very hard to get an adequate number of jurors to appear at this time.”
Young ruled that he felt it was inconsistent with safety of potential jurors to summon people to jury duty, when there were so many things the court couldn’t provide.
All four Douglas County courts have implemented virtual and audio appearances in proceedings since the beginning of the outbreak.
Parties are appearing either by phone or GoToMeeting, a free application, including attorneys, defendants and representatives of Nevada Parole and Probation.
“I am committed to ensuring all parties and their attorneys are able to fully access the court, to do so safely, and to do so without any added cost,” Justice of the Peace Cassandra Jones said Thursday. “Virtual proceedings allow more people to take part. During these unprecedented times, we have relied on alternative avenues to increase court accessibility.”
All parties and attorneys are strongly encouraged to appear by audio or video, and file pleadings in a touchless way.
If a party chooses to appear in-person, the courts have taken significant steps to increase cleaning and sanitizing practices. Before entering the building, all participants must pass a health screening. The courts are requiring that parties socially distance in gallery seating, and participants may have to wait in the hallway if necessary to meet social distancing requirements. Parties and counsel have been requested to wear masks while waiting in the courtroom for their case; free surgical masks are available upon request. Additionally, the courtrooms are undergoing rigorous cleaning and sanitization procedures between cases and sessions.
For more about how the courts are handling the coronavirus, visit http://www.eastforkjusticecourt.com, tahoejusticecourt.com or douglasdistrictcourt.com