After March’s stumble, when jury trials were to resume at the Flagler County courthouse but for an error by the vendor responsible for sending out summonses, trials will finally resume this week after a four-month covid hiatus, and potential jurors have been summoned. They’re also being reassured by Circuit Judge Terence Perkins, the senior and administrative judge in the county, that “every court process and procedure” has been reviewed “to ensure that your jury service is safe.”
A two-page letter by Perkins is being mailed or emailed to every potential juror and is appearing on the home page of the clerk of court’s site.
Hundreds of summonses are mailed out to potential jurors for trials in misdemeanor, felony and civil court. The jurors usually assemble on Mondays of trial weeks in the Jury Assembly Room on the first floor of the courthouse, before they are assigfned to one jury pool or another before being whittled down to actual juries of six or 12, with two alternates (juries of 12 are only for murder cases, some of which are likely to be scheduled later this year.) The courthouse is still requiring individuals, vaccinated or not, to abide by strict covid-safety guidelines.
Jurors will be screened, including temperature checks, and will be asked to reveal if they have any particular symptoms such as coughs, chills, muscle pains, sore throat and loss of taste or smell. Lawyers and judges in the jury-selection process invariably must struggle through litanies of excuses from jurors claiming they can’t serve for one reason or another. The reasons can be a challenge for the lawyers–family visiting, a bad back, unreliable transportation, an unhappy experience with courts in the past. This time around jurors will have perfectly new and fail-safe excuses to get out of jury duty since no one is likely to ask for proof of chills or other symptoms.
They will also be asked the now-familiar questions about whether they’d have been covid-tested in the past two weeks, traveled to an area “with a notably high concentration of covid-19 cases” (currently, Flagler rates as one such area), and whether they’re under instructions to self-isolate (many people ignore summonses for jury duty, others consider them a sacred duty to answer, even when under orders to stay home).
Perkins’s letter also reassures jurors that all areas where they will be standing or sitting have been marked with socially-distant stickers, down to the floor of courthouse corridors, the jury box and the benches where jurors sit during jury-selection. (See the images above and below.) Hand-sanitizers have also been placed liberally throughout. The courtroom will be open to potential jurors in smaller jury pools (25 at a time instead of 50 at a time). But visitors will still be restricted.
“By observing these common-sense health precautions, we are confident that you will not only be safe but feel safe while you serve your community through jury service,” Perkins wrote the potential jurors. “I look forward to welcoming you to the Courthouse on Monday, April 5th, 2021.” No trials are actually scheduled until later this month, according to the court’s online docket.