New Jersey recently announced plans to restart criminal trials using a combination of in-person and remote proceedings, including jury selection. However, a prominent legal association of criminal defense attorneys has spoken out against the state’s plan to resume trials for the first time in approximately four months.
According to state officials, approximately 5,000 defendants are currently awaiting trial. Under the state’s proposed plan, live trials will resume in September at courthouses serving six of New Jersey’s counties. The state has taken several steps to assure the safety of participants, including virtual jury selection proceedings and the enforcement of social distancing during trials. However, in spite of recently released judicial guidelines that propose to connect jurors with attorneys and defendants via live video feeds, a spokesman for the judiciary recently announced that jurors won’t be housed in separate courtrooms due to the limited number of trials expected.
Among the legal association’s concerns with the state’s plans to restart trials are certain groups’ lack of access to technology. According to the association, a lack of access to technology will exclude poor, minority, and elderly jurors from participating in criminal trials. The association also claims that pre-screening for certain medical conditions will result in further exclusion of members of these groups. In addition, the association asserts that a criminal defendant should have the right to decide whether he or she wants a jury trial or a bench trial.
Ultimately, the association’s position is that current defendants are in the difficult position of having to choose between an indefinite period of incarceration during a pandemic and the prospect of an imperfect, partially remote jury trial.
New Jersey has previously experimented with virtual grand juries and claims it will use the knowledge gained from those experiences to conduct criminal trial jury selections when trials commence. The judiciary has stated that its primary focus upon the commencement of criminal trials will be fairness and adherence to current public health guidelines. The state also plans to remain flexible, refining the process as necessary to best serve all those involved.
New Jersey isn’t the first state to experiment with online trials. In May, a Texas court held what is believed to be the first online civil jury trial. In addition, another Texas court recently conducted what is believed to be the first criminal trial using a virtual jury. Florida has also conducted proceedings by utilizing social distancing and in-person trials and hearings.
Contact Our Hackensack Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges of any kind in New Jersey, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. At Rosenblatt Law, we’ll use our experience and knowledge to accurately assess your case and advise you of your available options. Once we determine the appropriate strategy for your case, we’ll do everything in our power to achieve a successful result in your New Jersey criminal case. Please contact us today for a consultation.