Delaware courts implement new safety protocols as jury trials resume

DOVER, Del. – For the time being, this will be the norm for courts in Delaware. Plexiglass placed around the courtroom, socially distanced seating, and a whole new process for jury members to follow. All changes court officials say is critical to ensure these trials are safe for everyone.

“We want to take it slow, we want to walk before we can run,” said Chief of Community Relations, Sean O’Sullivan.

After lots of discussion and planning, the Kent County Courthouse in Dover is ready to start jury trials back up again. But they’ve made some big changes as they attempt to keep people safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’ve redesigned the entire jury process to reduce large crowds, to reduce the amount of time you have to stand in line, to make it as simple and as safe as possible,” said O’Sullivan.

So if you’re chosen for jury duty, this is what you’ll see. From the moment you walk through the doors, you’ll be met with social distancing markers placed all around the courthouse along with plexiglass. You’ll also answer screening questions to ensure you haven’t been exposed to the virus.

“We have scanning equipment that can immediately tell us whether folks have a fever or not,” said O’Sullivan.

Another hurdle court officials had to tackle was how to go about jury selection, orientation, and more in the safest way possible. Which meant moving the entire process to one large room.

“Once we bring them into this courtroom, they’re going to stay here for check-in, juror orientation, parts of the voir dire, and ultimately the trial,” said O’Sullivan.

Officials say, for now, trials with people who are not incarcerated will resume first.

“When we start to involve folks that are in prison, it raises a whole different layer of logistics,” said O’Sullivan.

They add that if all goes well they’ll continue to add on more trials so people can finally get their day in court.

“If that works we’re going to start to increase the volume and clear out some of the case backlogs that are built up,” said O’Sullivan.

Court officials add that if you are selected for jury duty and you have more questions or concerns, you’re encouraged to visit their website here where you’ll find a link to frequently asked questions as well as a video instruction to watch that will show you what you can expect when you head to court.

Categories: Delaware, Local News