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Criminal trials to resume

Blair successfully seats six juries

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County will resume criminal court jury trials Monday for the first time since March.

“We were successful in seating six juries this week,” Blair County President Judge Elizabeth Doyle said Friday about the revised selection process during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Instead of the traditional jury selection process summoning about 300 potential jurors to the courthouse on a single day, the county called in smaller group of jurors — about 60 each — from Monday through Thursday.

By summoning smaller groups, jurors were able to sit at least 6 feet from each other, a key recommendation in lessening the potential COVID-19 exposure. The county also required the potential jurors to wear masks.

“I think it was a great joint effort on everyone’s part,” Doyle said of the revised selection process that drew cooperation and support of several county offices and employees.

Doyle said the court administration office, in particular Administrator Janice Meadows and Jury Coordinator Vickie Smith, were instrumental in managing the revised jury selection process.

“But this truly was an all-hands-on-deck effort,” the judge said.

When seated jurors return to the courthouse for trial, she said measures will be taken to see that they can continue to observe social distancing practices. When it comes to deliberations, the idea of sequestering the jury inside a courtroom has been suggested as one alternative that would provide enough space.

Meanwhile, efforts are developing to seat a civil court jury in mid-August, if needed.

The next criminal court jury selection week is set to start Aug. 31 for trials scheduled Sept. 8-18.

Blair County last held a criminal court trial on March 12 and 13. It was scheduled to hold two jury trials the following week, but canceled them after COVID-19 concerns developed.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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