Jury trials in St. Joseph County suspended for rest of year

CENTREVILLE — There will be no more jury trials in St. Joseph County courts for the remainder of 2020.

St. Joseph County Court Administrator Kathy Griffin announced in a press release Thursday the suspension of jury trials for the remainder of the calendar year due to the increase of COVID-19 cases in the county.

According to Griffin’s release, county courts are only able to conduct jury trials when the number of COVID cases is below a threshold set by the Michigan Supreme Court. She told the Commercial-News in an interview in late October, when county courts moved from Phase 3 to Phase 2 of the Supreme Court’s Returning to Full Capacity Guide, there would need to be a “downward” trajectory of cases to move between phases and be able to do certain things, such as jury trials.

That downward trajectory has not happened, and in fact there has been a steep upward trajectory in cases in St. Joseph County, with over 870 positive cases reported by the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency since the beginning of October.

“At this time, the case count per million remains too high, as well as the positivity rate, for jury trials to be held safely,” Griffin said in the release.

The move comes after many other county courts in Michigan adjourned all jury trials until 2021, including Kalamazoo County, who were expected to hold outgoing St. Joseph County Prosecutor John McDonough’s drunk driving trial later this year.

Jury summons for the rest of the year, Griffin said in the release, have already been sent out, and will be notified by the county clerk’s office as to next steps. Court officials say those who were summoned will have their jury service completed for the year, despite the particular trial summoned for not taking place in 2020.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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