Updated: October 29, 2020 02:22 AM
Created: October 28, 2020 06:07 PM
Jury trials are set to resume in Albany County next week after months of delays due to the coronavirus shutdown. Jury selection will begin on Monday, November 2.
Albany County District Attorney David Soares says the court and trial experience will look very different due to CDC guidelines on social distancing. For starters, jurors will no longer sit in the jury box. They will be spaced out in the gallery to ensure proper distance between them.
Soares says all jurors, staff, witnesses and people standing trial should expect extensive health screenings and temperature checks daily. He says some witnesses may have to testify virtually due to travel quarantine guidelines.
Soares says people who would normally sit in the gallery during proceedings will be in a separate room where they can watch a live stream of the hearing.
For the time being, there will only be one trial every two weeks as compared to three to four per week during normal times. Soares says this is to allow for extra time for breaks, possible contact tracing or quarantine issues should someone become infected with COVID-19.
Soares says the county is dealing with a major backlog of cases and it could take anywhere from a year and a half to two years to catch up. He says delaying them any longer is not an option.
"Let's understand that we have violent people who stand accused of committing offenses. We have victims who are subject to those offenses that are not sleeping well at night because the fate of their cases are still open and in order to bring about resolution for those victims but as well as in order to provide that greater level of safety for the public, we have to have these trials," said Albany County District Attorney David Soares.
Soares says they are also considering having anyone standing trial who is currently incarcerated quarantine before and during their trial.
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