Shuttered Berkshire Mall could be used as a site for jury trials

Berkshire County
Berkshire Mall

Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough, Massachusetts on January 27, 2019. (JJBers / flickr / CC BY 2.0)

BOSTON (AP) — A shuttered Massachusetts mall is being considered as a site to hold jury trials when they resume early next year, officials say.

The state Trial Court’s Chief Justice Paula Carey in a letter to Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington said The Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough is a possible location for trials.

“We have made some appreciable progress in identifying and obtaining space to conduct jury trials at the Berkshire Mall,” Carey wrote, according to a story Thursday in the Berkshire Eagle. “We are hopeful that together we can move the ball forward with respect to that location.”

The retail outlet just outside of Pittsfield shut down last year.

Jury trials have been suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, but the state court system announced a plan recently to resume six-person jury trials in January to deal with a massive statewide backlog, but only at sites that can be made coronavirus safe.

It was determined that Berkshire County courthouses could not be made safe.

Harrington said the inability to try cases is delaying justice, while frustrating victims and defendants alike.

There is a backlog of more than 2,000 district court trials and almost 200 Superior Court trials in Berkshire County alone, she said.

Massachusetts health officials releasing two days’ worth of coronavirus data reported nearly 4,500 newly confirmed cases and 29 additional confirmed deaths.

Massachusetts’ total caseload since the pandemic began rose Friday to just under 212,000 cases, and the death toll now stands at 10,401. Authorities caution that the actual toll is likely higher because of deaths not attributed to COVID-19.

Nearly 1,000 people were hospitalized as of Friday afternoon, more than 200 of them in intensive care, the state Department of Public Health said.

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