Douglas County defendants who are in custody could see jury trials in February

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

Chairs are spaced apart at the Flory Meeting Hall of the Douglas County Fairgrounds on Dec. 18, 2020. Douglas County District Court made plans to hold jury trials at the building beginning in 2021.

Long-delayed jury trials could resume under a recent administrative order in Douglas County District Court, at least for defendants who are in custody.

However, as of Thursday, records from the court and the Douglas County Jail indicated that only two cases scheduled for February jury trials fit that criteria.

Chief Judge James McCabria issued the administrative order Wednesday, stating that any trials scheduled to begin during February for defendants who are not in custody would be continued and removed from the docket.

For those defendants who are in custody, though, McCabria wrote that the division judges presiding over the cases could determine whether the case should proceed “based on any considerations that judge determines appropriate to the particulars of that case.”

At a hearing Thursday afternoon in one of the two in-custody cases, the prosecutor said the case was close to a plea agreement and a jury trial most likely won’t be necessary after all. That defendant has been in custody of the jail since September 2019.

Court records indicated the other case is set for trial to begin Feb. 16. The defendant has been in custody since Jan. 6, and he had a hold through the Kansas Department of Corrections and could not bond out, jail records showed.

The Kansas Supreme Court suspended many deadlines, including deadlines during which the state must bring a defendant to trial, near the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020. On Tuesday, Chief Justice Marla Luckert extended those deadline suspensions through March 31.

Prior to the pandemic, under Kansas state law, defendants who are in custody must be brought to trial within 150 days of their arraignment.

When jury trials do resume in Douglas County, the court has a plan to safely hold trials in the Flory Meeting Hall of the Douglas County Fairgrounds. The large building allows space for social distancing, among other precautions, the Journal-World has reported.

The court’s plan was approved by Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health in December; however, all jury trials were delayed through January as numbers of local COVID-19 cases continued to climb.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact public safety reporter Mackenzie Clark:

Related coverage

Jan. 7, 2021: Douglas County court to delay jury trials through January

Dec. 18, 2020: Douglas County District Court prepares for jury trials at the fairgrounds; here’s what to expect if you’re summoned

Nov. 17, 2020: Douglas County’s jury trial plan approved; court can use fairgrounds buildings to allow for social distancing

Nov. 1, 2020: New public access issues arise in Douglas County Court cases months into pandemic

Oct. 18, 2020: Technology limitations, pandemic changes create concerns as Douglas County inmates try to navigate court system

July 13, 2020: COVID-19 precautions, ‘technical difficulties’ hinder public access to court hearing in Lawrence murder case

May 25, 2020: Some pandemic-related efficiencies here to stay, Douglas County District Court chief judge says

May 19, 2020: Many Douglas County District Court hearings to be livestreamed on YouTube; some appointments being scheduled

May 10, 2020: Is the Douglas County Jail’s inmate population decrease amid COVID-19 sustainable? Law enforcement isn’t optimistic

April 12, 2020: Expanding use of videoconferencing keeps Douglas County District Court moving forward; some challenges persist

April 7, 2020: Douglas County district attorney: 14 inmates released from jail amid COVID-19; some community service hours waived in diversion cases

March 22, 2020: Speedy trial rights are on hold in Kansas. What does that mean for defendants?

March 17, 2020: Douglas County District Court delays most hearings, jury trials amid COVID-19 concerns

March 13, 2020: Douglas County District Court limits public presence in courtrooms, hallways amid COVID-19 outbreak

March 13, 2020: Some Douglas County Jail inmates could be released on furloughs if sick or at risk of COVID-19


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.