Douglas County defendants who are in custody could see jury trials in February
photo by: Mackenzie Clark
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.
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• Jan. 7, 2021: Douglas County court to delay jury trials through January