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Ohio AG Says Jury Trials Can Be Suspended Because Of Coronavirus Concerns

Attorney General Dave Yost gestures at a news conference last month.
Attorney General Dave Yost gestures at a news conference last month.

The attorney general is advising Ohio’s courts that they can suspend jury trials to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Attorney General Dave Yost’s opinion said courts may suspend jury trials for up to 270 days under state law in a pandemic emergency, because they could pose a health risk to jurors, to court personnel and to defendants.

Yost said he got the request to look into the issue after a question from Medina County Prosecutor Forrest Thompson, who said, "this has the potential of putting over one hundred citizens from all different levels of potential exposure in close proximity to one another for extended periods of time."

Yost said it was worth looking into because it's such an unusual situation. But Yost said this must be temporary.

“The right to speedy trial is a fundamental right. It’s guaranteed by the constitution, and nobody should do this quickly or cavalierly," Yost said. "We need to think carefully about it and any adjustments that are made need to only be to accommodate the epidemic itself."

Yost said similar actions have been taken in Washington and California, and that the United States District Court of the Southern District of Ohio has already suspended jury trials because of the pandemic.

Copyright 2020 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.
Karen Kasler
Contact Karen at 614/578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.