February 22, 2021
Iowa courts are reassuring potential jurors that safety measures are in place for resumption of trials. Additional $9 million requested to help clear case backlog.
“Even in a global pandemic, the wheels of justice cannot stop turning.”
With that sentiment, former KCCI-TV anchor Kevin Cooney urges Iowans to answer the call if asked to serve on a jury in new video public service announcements released by the Iowa Judicial Branch with the resumption of jury trials on Feb. 1.
“As stated in the PSA, ‘the right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers is the bedrock of Iowa’s judicial system and is essential to our democracy,’” Iowa Supreme Court Justice Matthew McDermott, co-chair of the Jumpstart Jury Trials Task Force, said. “The videos explain to potential jurors the important balance of ensuring the right to a fair trial and protecting the health and safety of all the participants in the trial.”
Trials were first put on hold in March 2020 during the onset of the pandemic, resumed in September only to be paused again in November as infections surged. The PSA directs viewers to a resource page and longer video that outlines the many measures taken by the court to keep jurors, defendants, and court officers safe.
Based on the reports we’re hearing, Iowans are stepping up to serve. Extensive safeguards are in place throughout the process from the time a summons is received through check-in, jury selection, and the trial. A potential juror can also request a one-year deferral based on concerns about COVID.
“To our knowledge there were no infections connected with the trials that took place last fall and we believe that is a testament to the safeguards we have in place,” Justice McDermott reported.
The restart is long overdue for too many Iowans and their families who have had their lives put on hold while waiting for the resumption of jury trials. Justice delayed is justice denied, as the old English saying goes, and this has been a particularly frustrating and dangerous experience for those incarcerated while waiting for their day in court. Several thousand inmates and hundreds of correctional officers have been infected with the coronavirus, 18 inmates have died.
Iowans are doing their job to get the courts moving again, so now the Governor and legislative leaders must do the same and approve the court’s budget request for an additional $9 million to cover COVID-19 expenditures and tackle the significant backlog in cases. It’s time to get the wheels of justice moving once again for all Iowans.
The Justice Not Politics Team