Idaho Supreme Court announced that jury trials may resume effective March 1, 2021, after being suspended due to COVID-19.
The court cancelled jury trials Sept. 10, 2020, citing health, safety and legal rights of those involved.
The change comes as new incidents of COVID-19 in Idaho continue to decline. According to state health data, the state had 150 new confirmed cases and 62 probable cases of COVID-19 as of Feb. 6, a significant decrease from December when single day totals reached 1,600 cases.
Both civil and criminal jury trials will resume. According to the order, criminal jury trials will take precedence.
“Per today’s order, the courts will prioritize jury trials for criminal cases, starting with those in which a defendant is incarcerated. Civil jury trials will be prioritized after those,” the court announced in a press release.
At the Benewah County Courthouse, nine jury trials were set by January 5, two criminal and seven civil cases. The earliest was tentatively scheduled for Feb. 9. However, it was settled for $300 in fines and court costs when the defendant pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor drug offenses prior to the trial date.
According to a court clerk, the next trial scheduled is for April 13, 2021, but that is subject to change.
According to Benewah County Sheriff’s Office jail staff, there were no inmates awaiting a jury trial as of Feb. 5.
The number of court cases in the county that were delayed by COVID-19 is unknown. Court staff have said that jury trials are rare in the county with most settling by other means. The individual scheduled for a jury trial, Feb. 9, 2021, was first charged April 14, 2020. However, delays were not exclusively due to the pandemic. The individual was also not incarcerated to await trial as the county adopted a cite-and-release policy for low level offenders during the pandemic.