JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Misdemeanor jury trials in Alaska will resume in November after the pandemic forced an eight-month hiatus, the state’s top court said.
Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger issued an order Thursday allowing jury trials for misdemeanors or lesser crimes to resume with rules in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Everyone in the courtroom must receive a daily health screening test and wear masks at almost all times. Plexiglass screens will serve as barriers between people and social distancing rules will apply. No spectators will be allowed in-person, but they will be permitted to watch remotely.
James Christie, a criminal defense attorney in Anchorage, says the victims of crimes and those accused of perpetrating them are both adversely affected by delays in trials.
Bolger estimated that there were thousands of cases that have been sitting in limbo due to the delay in trials implemented in March. He also added that more serious felony trials that require 12 jurors may restart as early as January, KTOO-FM reported.
The state reported on Friday the highest number of deaths, six, in a single day since the pandemic began. There have been a total of 8,202 confirmed cases and 52 deaths from the coronavirus in Alaska.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.