Vermont plans 1st jury trials since pandemic hit

Vermont News

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (AP) — Vermont is preparing to hold its first jury trials since the coronavirus pandemic hit last year.

Jury draws are planned Monday for a number of cases in Windham County criminal court, the Brattleboro Reformer reported. Among them are cases involving drug crimes. According to court documents, social distancing and masking will be part of the proceedings.

The judiciary picked cases that were not very complicated, meaning they did not involve a large number of witnesses and could be tried within a couple of days “because this is all new,” said Vermont Chief Superior Judge Brian Grearson of the trial preparations.

An upgrade to the building’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system for proper airflow could lead to fluctuating temperatures, according to a court flyer sent to jurors. The trial arrangements were planned in consultation with an infectious disease expert to comply with virus guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vermont Health Department, the newspaper reported.

“This process has not been easy. We’ve had to take it step by step,” Grearson said.

The number of people allowed inside the courtroom will apparently be limited to 27, so the proceedings will be live-streamed.

“It’s a groundbreaking event,” said Windham County Deputy State’s Attorney Steven Brown. “It will be watched carefully around the state, especially by other lawyers.”

Vermont reported 29 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, for a statewide total since the pandemic began of more than 23,900. Eleven people were hospitalized with one in intensive care, according to the health department. The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Vermont did not increase over the past two weeks, going from about 79 new cases per day on May 1 to about 57 new cases per day on Saturday.

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