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Could court be back in session soon? Salt Lake County discusses pilot program

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, courthouses across the state are reporting a backlog of jury trials. (PHOTO: Salt Lake City Courthouse, courtesy of Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Jury trials may begin later this month in Utah’s largest judicial district. The news comes as discussion has started in Salt Lake County about a pilot program for the court, which could launch shortly after Thanksgiving.

Pondering a pilot program in Salt Lake County

As the Deseret News points out, nothing is set in stone at this time, but the pressure to do something has been mounting as the coronavirus pandemic continues to force cases to pile up all over the state.

In the current initiative that’s being discussed, the interviewing and selecting jurors may take place via videoconference. Officials would also use rapid COVID testing to determine whether those jurors will hear testimony as they sit several feet apart.

Trials would be held in the biggest courtrooms available and depending on the severity of the charge, the size of the jury could range anywhere from four to eight, plus an alternate. 

For now, jury trials still on pause

Courts in most parts of the state have postponed jury trials indefinitely, dating back to the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. State officials have said the goal is to limit traffic to courtrooms that could put defendants, employees and jurors at risk of infection.
 
More than 120,000 Utahns have tested positive for coronavirus and infection rates are continuing to surge across the state. Of the total confirmed population to have the virus, more than 40% live in Salt Lake County, according to figures taken from the Utah Department of Health website.