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Ohio's Attorney General Says Judges Can Suspend Jury Trials To Prevent Virus Spread

Earlier today, March 18, Ohio Attorney General David Yost issued an opinion saying he believes judges may suspend jury trials in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Yost said this was consistent with state and federal obligations to conduct speedy trials.

The process, known as tolling, allows for a trial to be paused or delayed for a period of time.

Yost said that although tolling is an extraordinary step – he believes that it is lawful and responsible during a pandemic emergency.

Washington, California, and the U.S. district court in the southern district of Ohio have already suspended jury trials due to the pandemic emergency.

However, suspending trials can have an outsized impact on people already in jail. Especially people who can’t afford cash bail.

"The danger in this situation is that defendants will end up in jail for a long period of time waiting for their trial," says Ellis Jacobs, a Yellow Springs attorney with Advocates For Basic Legal Equality. "And so this is exactly what the speedy trial statute is meant to avoid."

Yost believes the pandemic emergency is a valid reason to delay a trial.

The formal opinion by the Attorney General does not mandate the pausing or delaying of trials, but gives guidance to judges who may be inclined to do so.