Jury of the Future: Court makes pandemic-related safety adjustments

Pima County Superior Court ready to hold first jury trial since onset of COVID-19 pandemic
Posted at 6:09 AM, Dec 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-08 08:09:22-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Bright yellow tape, plexiglass and hand sanitizer. That is what you will see if you step into Pima County's newly revamped jury assembly room.

"In the past, we would have 10 or 12 jury trials going on the same day. We could fit 300 people in here at one time," said Pima County Jury Commissioner, Sally Digges.

Only 50 people are allowed in the assembly room, for now.

Digges said every aspect of the courthouse is set up with safety in mind. Masks are required at all times. Seats are spaced at least six feet apart. High touch items like books, magazines and coffee stations are out of sight. Each room is cleaned often.

"We're only doing one trial a day. We're going to be able to get people in and out of here a lot more quickly," said Digges.

If scheduled, the day's one trial will happen in the county's largest courtroom.

The days of a packed house are no more. In most cases, the public won't be allowed to attend in person. Few exceptions will be made for victims and family.

"We have to balance public health with access to justice and constitutional rights that people have, in terms of having a right to a jury trial and speedy trial," said Digges.

For the public, trials will be streamed online. The court expects more people to listen in because they can do so from the comfort of their own home.

"The court is trying to use technology as much as possible to keep people safe and keep the number of people in the courthouse low," said Digges.

The Pima County Superior Court is allowing jurors to defer their service until 2021 in the case that they are sick or don't feel comfortable breaking quarantine.