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Trials again delayed in the Alaska Court System over COVID-19 concerns

Published: Dec. 1, 2020 at 4:10 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Supreme Court has once again issued an order delaying jury trials in the state. According to the order, the level of cases in the state and the lack of widespread COVID-19 vaccines until March makes starting trials “unduly dangerous.”

The order suspends all criminal jury trials until at least March 15, 2021 -- almost a year since the last trials in the state were held. Misdemeanor trials were scheduled to resume in November and felony trials were set to resume in January. The order says the continuation of the suspension will be reviewed near the end of January. The order states that this time is not to be calculated when calculating time for trial under Criminal Rule 45.

The order also suspends all grand jury proceedings until at least February 1, 2021. Grand Jury proceedings had resumed earlier this summer with increased COVID-19 safety measures in place. Civil jury trials have also been suspended until September 7, 2021 per the order.

Multiple defense attorneys have expressed concerns over the continued trial delays worrying that it could violate constitutional rights to a speedy trial. Chief Justice Joel Bolger previously told us in an interview that he would never issue an order that he felt violated someone’s constitutional rights.

The order did say that a judge may allow an in-person jury in exceptional circumstances. It also stated that a judge may approve a request for a jury trial to be conducted over videoconference if both parties agree.

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