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Trials to resume in Wayne County Circuit Court in July

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

Trials are set to resume in Wayne County's Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in the beginning of July, the chief judge announced Wednesday.

Bench trials, those heard only before a judge, are set to resume July 7 while jury trials are scheduled to resume Aug. 17, Chief Judge Timothy Kenny of Wayne County Circuit Court said.

Once they resume, the number of bench and jury trials will be limited to "ensure proper social distancing and safety of all in the  Frank Murphy Hall of Justice," Kenny said in his order.

Jury service for the court has been suspended until mid-August as Kenny and other court officials contemplate how to conduct trials while maintaining juror safety.

"The concern we have first and foremost is the issue of social distancing," said Kenny, noting how closely jurors sit next to each other in courtrooms and jury rooms. 

"The last thing we want to do is bring citizens in (for jury duty) and expose them to the virus," the judge said last month, adding that there are "hundreds" of cases waiting to be heard by a judge or jury following a state-wide backlog since the coronavirus outbreak led state officials to restrict public gatherings.

The public, including media members, will not be permitted in the courtrooms but will have access to all court proceedings through YouTube via the Court's website at http://www.3rdcc.orq/.

Bench trials may resume before July 7, but only if all parties involved agree to conduct the proceedings remotely.

Many civil and criminal court hearings were adjourned in mid-March as the state responded to the COVID-19 outbreak. Most felony cases were heard but many other matters have been conducted remotely or through Zoom technology to prevent the spread of the virus.

Frank Murphy Hall of Justice and Detroit's 36th District Court have both undergone deep cleaning during the reduced operations of both courts because court staff or an attorney who had tested positive had visited the courts.