Most San Diego Jurors Avoid Court During COVID-19

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Only 41 prospective jurors out of 800 San Diegans summoned for jury duty showed up for service Tuesday as San Diego Superior Court held its first jury trial since suspending court operations in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Courthouse News Service. Superior Court Presiding Judge Lorna Alksne said 350 jurors who received summonses in September asked the court to postpone their service. The other 400 jurors were apparently no-shows Tuesday. “I think people are afraid,” Alksne said. She added, “I don’t want anyone to be here that doesn’t feel comfortable. Some people haven’t even been to the grocery store. But if you’re willing to go to the grocery store, you’re willing to have your hair done, you’re willing to go to church — those people are the ones I want.”

While Alksne doesn’t expect no-show jurors will be found in contempt of court, she said, “we’d have to look at everything that’s provided in the code.” The court has put federal social distancing measures in place and has outfitted four courtrooms — two of which are being used exclusively for jury selection interviews — with Plexiglass panels separating the judge, court staff, attorneys and jurors. Alksne said, “If we don’t get enough jurors it doesn’t matter how many courtrooms we get set up.” San Diego Superior Court is poised to hold 10 criminal trials through the end of year, starting with one trial a week before eventually holding two trials a week. Of 20,000 pending criminal cases, San Diego Superior Court has a backlog of about 2,000 cases ready for trial, Alksne said. Tuesday’s trial was for a man charged with assault with a deadly weapon and elder abuse.

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