Baton Rouge, Louisiana
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Trials postponed until June 30; courts planning for post COVID-19 return to work

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BATON ROUGE- With new social distancing protocols part of our way of life, serious conversations are being held to make sure the foundation of our democracy gets rolling again safely. The State Supreme Court has ordered that no trials can continue before June 30.

"Justice delayed is justice denied" is an old saying for those in the justice system. With trials halted, defendants are sitting around waiting for their day in court. The problem so far is not unique to Louisiana. 

"Right now, prescription has been halted or interrupted or suspended," District Attorney Hillar Moore said. "When we come back, it will be a whole new normal, a new normal for a long time."

Civil and criminal jury trials have been on hold since March, but the order that covers Louisiana courts does allow emergency proceedings to continue. Those proceedings include matters of child endangerment, protective orders, as well as bond hearings and arraignments. The prescription Moore is talking about is a timeline set by our state's code of criminal procedure. It forces strict timelines on when certain cases are brought to justice. Nationwide, all courts are having the same discussions.
"We have a lot of ideas, and we have looked all over the country," Moore said. Everyone is struggling with the same issue. We are talking with other district attornies offices, courts around the United States. We have several ideas we are batting around now, and we hope to get a game plan soon."

Locally, meetings have been happening regularly with judges and the public defender to discuss possible issues that could arise. Game plans are being considered on what a return to normal will look like, and it won't be anything that people are used to seeing.

"Really, just moving the jurors apart so they are two or three seats apart," Moore said. "Staggering court sessions, jurors, using the bigger court upstairs for juries... Making sure we are complying with all safety rules and precautions we should take."

Moore expects dozens of trials to be impacted and says there will be plenty of catching up to do when things start back. Right now, everyone is working together on plans to see what a return looks like. Moore said more details are expected to be released next week.


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