San Diego Court

Jury Trials Resume in San Diego, But COVID-19 Caution Thinning Jury Pool

A San Diego judge said 41 of 800 potential jurors summoned showed up to jury duty on Tuesday

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Jury trials resumed at San Diego Superior Court on Tuesday, bringing a backlog of pending trials put on hold due to the pandemic one step closer to adjudication.

While the return of jury trials is a step forward, San Diego Superior Court Presiding Judge Lorna Alksne knows things aren’t close to being back at full speed.

Only 41 jurors showed up Tuesday out of the 800 who were summoned, according to Judge Alksne. Getting jurors to serve has never been a problem for the San Diego Superior Court, and the judge said she’s never seen a low turnout like this.

“As I told the jurors that were there this morning, just think if it was your husband or your spouse or your child that needed to have a jury trial as to whether or not they were guilty or innocent and no jurors showed up,” Judge Alksne said.

More than 300 potential jurors postponed, and hundreds more never even communicated with the court, according to Judge Alksne.

It’s clear COVID-19 is still on the minds of many as they slowing inch their way back into a more altered version of normal life. It’s a concern courts are still grappling with all while facing pressures to ensure justice still gets served.

Criminal Defense Attorney Marc Kohnen said he’s happy to finally see movement given the intimidating backlog of cases still needing attention .

“To see it start with one trial is a measure of progress, we'll take it,” Kohnen said.

However, Kohnen alluded to the other difficulties that might come with a new reconfigured jury process. One example: COVID-19 restrictions mean smaller pools to choose from day-to-day and potentially longer jury selections in general.

“There’s a potential for questioning the entire pool that's available for that day and yet not arriving a jury of 12 members,” Kohnen said. With the mounting casework confronting courts, Kohnen said he’s concerned what ramifications might ensue if jury selections begin to stretch past their typical lengths of time.

Judge Alksne is calling on anyone who gets summoned to please show up for service to help the justice system move forward and make up for lost time.

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