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Los Angeles Criminal Jury Trials in the COVID-19 Age


I just wrapped up a jury trial and my jury is deliberating.  It was an interesting process that was used to pick the jury and then, ultimately, try the case in these times where everybody is wearing a mask, social distancing, and obviously concerned that people are not exposed to the Coronavirus.

The way it was done in the courtroom that I was in, and courtrooms can do it differently across LA county and other counties as well, is there were 18 jurors brought in at a time.

We did three panels in the morning and then three panels in the afternoon and we did that two consecutive days.

Time-Qualifying Jurors

The first part of the trial was basically time-qualifying the jurors, which means that everybody was asked about whether or not they could serve for a 10-day trial in my case and that included deliberation time. Los Angeles Criminal Jury Trials in the COVID-19 Age

People were not excused, obviously, unless they had a severe financial hardship or they were taking care of an individual who needed a guardian to be able to take care of them.

The judge was pretty lenient when people were talking about financial hardships, so a number of different people were excused.

As each person was either excused, or if the person was properly time-qualified and could serve on the jury, that group of people were sent back to the jury room to fill out a jury questionnaire which is pretty significant.

It covered a lot of what is asked of jurors during the course of a trial to save time and to not have the jurors in the courtroom as much and not to have the attorneys going back and forth talking about different cases.

Preemptory Challenges

Once the jury was time-qualified, once the questionnaire was filled out, then there was a list of jurors left.  They were numbered 1 through 58 and then they were just taken in order. The first 18 of those 58 were brought in.Los Angeles Criminal Jury Trial Defense Lawyer

Each side got to voir dire those jurors and then the preemptory challenges started.  In addition, all challenges for cause were done after the questionnaires were submitted.

So, a lot of jurors were sent home before they even came back because everybody agreed that a challenge for cause was appropriate, so we knocked out about 8 jurors with that procedure.

Then we just took panels 18 at a time until we had a jury.  It was actually a pretty good process.  It took about 3 days, although half of one of those days there were no jurors.  So, we just sat around and worked on jury instructions and 402 motions.

So, if you or a loved one has got a criminal jury trial and you want the best criminal defense, you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve done over 200 jury trials all over the place — Riverside county, Santa Barbara county, San Diego county, LA county.

I know what it takes to be successful and hopefully this has given you a peek into how juries, at least at this time, are being dealt with during the pandemic.

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Ronald D. Hedding, ESQ.

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