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Jury trial suspension adds wait times for families of crime victims who seek justice

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 5:44 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - For a third time jury trials in Allen County are being delayed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Between January 24 and Valentine’s Day, Allen County courtrooms will be available to host guilty pleas, sentencings and other hearings, but no jury trials.

The high incidence of COVID cases in the community is the main justification for suspending jury trials through February 14. This is the third time since April 2020 that this kind of action has been ordered in the county. In the beginning of 2021, the Indiana Supreme Court shut down jury trials statewide for a little more than three months.

When you can’t have trials, it puts the court system in catch-up mode.

“We have a massive backlog. This is going to make that worse, but we only have so many courtrooms, so many judges, so many attorneys to try these cases,” said Ryan Gardner, a public defender in Allen County.

“The participants are extraordinarily frustrated, I share their frustration. They’ve been waiting so long and so patiently for their day in court and here we are again, pushing things back for another three weeks. And I know that people aren’t happy, but once again I think we as the judiciary have to lead by example and we need to make sure people are safe,” said Judge Fran Gull, Administrative Judge of Superior Court’s Criminal Division.

Local court officials plan to re-evaluate the COVID situation around February 7, hoping they don’t need to extend the trial suspension beyond February 14.

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