North Idaho postpones jury trials because of rising COVID cases

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho–Jury trials in North Idaho will have to wait.

The order to pause them comes from the Idaho Supreme Court as COVID-19 cases rise.

The administrative district judge of the First Judicial District signed in the emergency order last week. Jury trials will be postponed the week of Dec 6.

The order applies to Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Kootenai and Shoshone Counties.

Jury commissioner Pete Barnes says they’ve been able to fit seven or eight trials in the past few months. However, COVID rates keep skyrocketing so they have to keep pulling back.

Barnes says it’s a burden that keeps piling on.

“It is what it is, you know, you don’t want to have a big group of people and you want to protect the jurors, and the attorneys and the judge and everything, so we’re suffering along with other counties and states with COVID problems,” he said.

Barnes says there could already be immediate effects from this order. Those would be speedy trial issues so people could be waiting in jail longer. He says there are many criminal cases sitting and even more civil trials.

They have a courthouse full of Zoom hearings and some are still happening in person, but he says it’s just too risky to bring in jurors.

“I think the Supreme Cocasesurt is doing the right thing and our administrative judge is doing the right thing. I think COVIDs a pretty serious deal and bringing jurors in, a mass of people we don’t have big huge courtrooms where we can keep people six feet apart,” Barnes said.

The Kootenai County District Court is waiting to see if the administrative judge will extend the postponement after Dec. 10.

RELATED: Rise in COVID-19 cases forces North Idaho prison to pause visitation

RELATED: Idaho braces for expected arrival of omicron variant