The number of COVID-19 cases racing through Santa Barbara County has prompted an indefinite delay on jury trials.
Initially, court officials suspended jury trials through Jan. 21 in hopes that the post-holiday outbreak would ease and that court proceedings could resume.
Last week, Presiding Judge Gustavo Lavayen revised the order “to protect the health and well-being of the public and court personnel.”
“All civil and criminal jury trials are hereby suspended until further notice,” the order stated. “This order is only applicable to jury trials that have not commended. This order does not affect jury trials that are in progress, which will be addressed on a case by case basis by the judicial officer presiding over the trial.”
Two trials in progress involve defendants allegedly linked to the MS-13 violent criminal gang.
Testimony in the Santa Maria trial with five defendants has paused because of COVID-positive cases among jurors.
Judge John McGregor has ordered jurors and participants to return Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in-person jury selection is occurring in Santa Barbara before Judge Michael Carrozzo with smaller groups brought in for questioning to allow for social distancing.
The court also has required face coverings while banning any mask with a valve, neck gaiter, bandana or handkerchief. Face shields also cannot be used without a mask unless required by a physician.
Acceptable facial coverings include N95, KN95 or KF94 masks or a cloth mask with a surgical mask underneath. Videos on the court website spell out the rules regarding face coverings.
Court executives have encouraged liberal use of virtual appearances by attorneys and defendants for proceedings when possible as another health precaution.
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.