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Manhattan courthouses are adapting to COVID to get trials back

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NEW YORK (AP) – Two large, busy Manhattan federal courts have argued that justice is delayed when justice is denied when a coronavirus strikes, creating a pandemic-safe environment for jurors that could be drafted elsewhere.

After months of inactivity, they are re-testing the security system, which includes air-conditioned Plexiglas pavilion witnesses, an audio system that allows socially distant lawyers to exchange whispers without attaching heads, and protocols to ensure that the document can be changed without any hassle. : by spraying through sterilization.

More than 100 trials have already been scheduled this year, օր a day after the jury resumed after Thanksgiving was adjourned, there was no investigative distribution of COVID-19 in the courtroom, said its chief administrator, Edward Friedland.

That’s possible because one of the nation’s oldest judges is about 70 sitting in two courtrooms. One is 93-year-old Louis L. Stanton has been at work almost every day since the epidemic.

“We wanted to protect them. “But you know the justice system needs to move forward,” Friedland said.

When trials ended a year ago when the epidemic hit the city, Chief Justice Colin McMahon set up a committee to look into how to safely resume. Friedland overheard the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for examination. An epidemiologist was soon with the aircraft specialist.

The CDC expert, who designed hermetically sealed hospital beds with HEPA filters, helped develop the Plexiglas pavilions, where witnesses sat safely in disguise, protecting the defendant’s right to confront the prosecutor.

McMahon attributed the large-scale anti-virus efforts to allowing convicted defendants to stand trial first.

Only nine jury trials were held in the fall, but seven have passed since mid-February, including four weeks. It would usually be dozens a year.

Simultaneous trials are set to take place in Brooklyn Federal Court, where Defender von Dornum, a federal defense attorney, said the judges were planning three trials in April, but none of them coincided so that there would be no jury in the courtroom at once.

“It would be better for clients to rehearse sooner, as delays obviously undermine people’s right to a fair trial, but on the other hand, a COVID-intimidated jury is unlikely to be fully involved in the idea of ​​reasonable doubt.” he wrote e.

In Manhattan courthouses, some jurors are assigned to other jobs if they do not wish to attend the trial in person.

“It was a gamble on whether we were going to get people to answer the call or not,” McMahon said, but said there were enough people to provide different juries.

Six of the courtrooms that opened in the mid-1990s have been remodeled, as have the other two streets in front of the 85-year-old courthouse listed in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The complex has a historical history of the events of the last century. Julius Ulius և Ethel Rosenberg espionage trials, Ponzi scheme’s prosecution of Bernard Madoff և Titanic sinking և 9/11

Judges fill almost half of each courtroom at a high distance from each other. Everyone gets hand masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes and a forehead thermometer. Double masks are required. Some courtrooms were converted into gigantic areas to allow jurors to gather for discussions at a distance of 6 feet (2 m) and 12 feet (4 m) to eat.

When the jury recently evaluated the coronavirus positively, no other jurors became ill.

At the long tables in court, lawyers whisper on special phones, their voices amplified by their team through technology borrowed from street restaurants that communicated behind the scenes with rock concerts. Microphone covers are replaced with each speaker.

“We think we have done a lot here, which is a turning point in COVID litigation, but of course we talked to our colleagues in other courts and learned from them,” Friedland said.

About $ 1 million was spent on the changes. To explain the security measures, Friedland rarely made exceptions to the rules banning photos.

“You can not go anywhere in this court building now without seeing a sign. One thing we worry about is complacency. “People are REALLY tired,” Friedland said. “Especially the jury members, if they have been here for weeks. Your mask is not worn properly. You forget to clean your hands. ”

US District Judge P. Kevin Castell, who presided over the first two trials of the epidemic jury in the fall, said the protocols were finally becoming commonplace.

“When everyone gets into a rhythm-flow, from the very first day or a day and a half it feels a lot like any other ordeal,” said Castell.

There are malfunctions.

The trial was adjourned last week when the jury had to take a COVID test because someone at school rated her husband positively. The prosecutor said that someone illegally recorded the proceedings from a telephone stream and posted it on the Internet.

Castel eventually cut off the public flow as some spectators could sit in the courtroom and others could watch the video in the nearby flooded hall.

He said some changes could be made to the epidemic, particularly in civil litigation.

“You can see more call lines where the public can hear the trial. “There may be more conferences that are done through either video or audio,” he said.

This is the future that everyone is striving for.

“I do not know of any wise man who would find it better,” said Castell. “You want human interaction. That is the dynamic that is possible for us as human beings. “

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Follow our recent coverage of countless life-threatening cases when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 an epidemic. Https://apnews.com/hub/pandemic-year:

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