Pitkin County jury trials resume amid new pandemic, security rules
The first felony jury trial in Pitkin County since the pandemic started is set to begin Tuesday morning, with a pool of prospective jurors called to the courthouse for the first time since February 2020.
Prospective jurors should bring rain jackets and umbrellas as they will not be immediately allowed into the Pitkin County Courthouse and the weather is expected to be cool, cloudy and rainy, Brady Jax, a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy in charge of courthouse security, said Monday afternoon.
The pool of possible jurors will initially line up on Main Street in the morning and check in with two court clerks, who will be posted at the bottom of the stairs to the main entrance, he said. Jurors will hand over their jury summons, take a COVID-19 screening, be advised of prohibited items not allowed through the courthouse’s new security station and provide their cellphone numbers.
They will then be asked to remain within 10-15 minutes of the courthouse. Those who live nearby can go home while others can find a cup of coffee or just hang out on a park bench, Jax said, until clerks call and ask them to return to the courthouse.
The security screening will come next. Jax advised prospective jurors to bring the bare minimum, though he noted that food and drinks are allowed inside the building. Once inside, clerks will direct jurors either upstairs to the large District Court courtroom, or downstairs to the newly built basement courtroom. Jurors will have to wear facemasks and practice social distancing while inside the courthouse.
District Judge Chris Seldin will sit on the bench in the upstairs courtroom, though he will be able to communicate with jurors downstairs via video and audio, Jax said.
The proceedings also will be available online to the general public through Webex at http://www.courts.state.co.us.
The defendant Tuesday is Jeremiah Casper, a Snowmass Village resident charged with felony stalking and felony intimidation of a witness for allegedly making threats about Snowmass Village Police Chief Brian Olson.
Casper’s case, however, is not the first post-pandemic jury trial to occur in Pitkin County.
Jurors were called to the courthouse a week ago for a domestic violence trial that was eventually dismissed, said Luisa Berne, Pitkin County Court prosecutor. The jury selection process in that case, which normally takes two or three hours, took all day, she said.
“It went fine,” she said. “It was just a longer process.”
And that was to pick just seven jurors — six and an alternate — for the misdemeanor trial. Lawyers on Tuesday for Casper’s felony trial will have to choose 13 jurors, including 12 sitting jurors plus an alternate.
Facemasks must be worn in all public areas of Colorado courthouses and probation offices until June 18, according to an order issued Monday by Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Brian Boatright. Chief justices for each district have been given the authority to implement in-person hearings depending on COVID-19 considerations in each area.
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