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Colfax Daily Bulletin 

Return of juries prompts order

 

The new arrangement for Superior Court seen July 6. Trials will resume July 13.

COLFAX – Jury trials in Whitman County will resume July 13 with some noticeable differences.

Superior Court Judge Gary Libey issued courtroom safety orders last week for the courtroom and jury trials. The Washington State Supreme Court adopted orders April 29 suspending all civil and criminal jury trials until after July 6.

While Judge Libey has continued to hear cases–many incorporating the Zoom platform for participants–all jury trials have been pushed back.

Now the court will be making up for lost time.

"We're going to be doing jury trials every week for two months," said Court Administrator Ginger Devorak. She noted prior to the suspension Superior Court had only one or two jury trials per month.

Jury trials will now be a multi-day proceeding. Jury selection will take place on Mondays with the jury candidates arriving in phases instead of all at once.

When the trial starts on Tuesday, the jury members will be seated six feet apart with half seated in the audience section. If needed, the trials will extend into Wednesday.

According to the order issued by Judge Libey June 25, a temperature check will be done on each person before they enter the courtroom. If the temperature is more than 100.4, that person will be retested in 10 minutes. If the temperature remains high, they will be excused.

Social distancing measures and mask wearing will also be required. The order noted the court may direct the removal of masks worn by active participants–including those seated at counsel tables, witnesses, the judge and court staff–to facilitate clear communication and due process.

Staff and visitors are expected to wash hands frequently or use hand sanitizer. The courtroom is also being disinfected every day.

Anyone who is sick will not be allowed into the courtroom.

During the past few months, Judge Libey has continued to hear cases from the bench while the court encouraged others to appear via Zoom. Devorak noted attorneys were also in the room most of the time as well. Those who did attend in-person were required to remain six feet apart.

The first trial of the renewed schedule set for July 13 is for Philip Hayes who is facing charges for drive-by shooting.

 

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