St. Louis County Circuit Court
105 South Central Avenue
Clayton, Missouri 63105
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Criminal Jury Trials to Resume April 12 in St. Louis County
Priority Given to Confined Defendants Seeking Speedy Trial
CLAYTON, MO – April 7, 2021 – After nearly a year’s suspension due to the pandemic, criminal jury trials are scheduled to resume under heightened health and safety standards on April 12, 2021 in St. Louis County Circuit Court.
To comply with health and safety guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the St. Louis County Department of Public Health and operating directives issued by the Supreme Court of Missouri in May of 2020, the 21st Circuit could not conduct jury trials until a number of viral transmission risk factors had subsided. These include the prevalence of COVID-19 cases among Court employees, residents and employees of the jail and the Juvenile Detention Center, and in the greater community.
The 21st Circuit has been partnering with health and safety experts, including an epidemiologist, to prepare courtrooms and other shared spaces to reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
“We have instituted numerous measures recommended by health professionals to protect the health and safety of everyone who must participate in criminal trials – from jurors to attorneys to jail personnel and members of the public,” said Presiding Judge Michael D. Burton. “Just like defendants, victims and their families, we have been eagerly awaiting the moment trials can finally proceed in the safest environment possible.”
While the Court cannot require its own employees, judges, outside attorneys, litigants or jurors to be vaccinated, everyone who enters the courthouse must have their temperature taken, wear a mask at all times and observe social distance. Anyone with a fever of more than 101 degrees will not be allowed into the building.
To conform with sanitation, social distancing and indoor capacity recommendations, three courtrooms will be used for each trial: one to conduct the trial itself, a second for spectators, families, witnesses and media to observe the live proceedings via a closed-circuit video feed, and a third for jury recesses and deliberations. Plastic shields have been installed at the judge’s bench, attorney tables, court reporter and bailiff’s stations. Jurors will be assigned numbered seats in the jury box and the area where spectators normally sit to ensure safe social distancing. Each courtroom will be sanitized daily, and witness tables and microphones wiped down between each speaker.
The Court will give priority to the cases of defendants in the County jail and the Missouri Department of Corrections who have been charged with serious felonies and who have filed speedy trial motions. The right of an accused confined person to a speedy trial is guaranteed by the Missouri and U.S. constitutions. Missouri statutes and Supreme Court rules set specific limits on the time within which either the defendant must be brought to trial or the case must be resolved or dismissed. Because those limits were exceeded during the pandemic, these cases will be given priority. About 100 cases are scheduled to go to trial and have been assigned to the Court’s circuit judges to be tried in the coming months. (Please see the attached spreadsheet.)
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