High choose ponders judgment on retrial in New York | Native information
ALBANIA – The administrators of the New York court system are working on a retrial plan for some trials on March 22nd.
Steps are being taken to continue the in-person trial in the courthouse even if judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers have not yet been inducted into the COVID-19 immunization eligibility group.
“We are in the process of consulting our legal partners on these plans and no final decisions will be made until we have completed this process,” said Judge Janet DiFiore.
DiFiore said courts reopening depends on “continued positive development in COVID metrics” as virus test positivity rates have steadily declined in recent weeks.
The fact that there are now heightened concerns about various strains of the coronavirus makes the situation “fluid and changeable,” warned the chief judge.
Justin Meyer, who manages the advisory program assigned to him, was contacted at his Plattsburgh office and said restarting processes was a necessary step, although he noted there would be some challenges.
“I think it will be difficult to find a place for 14 judges, including the deputies,” said Meyer. “But it would certainly be welcome to return to a sense of normalcy.”
The long pause in legal proceedings has led to “indictments hanging over people’s heads month after month.”
In Cooperstown, Otsego District Attorney John Muehl said the ability to maintain social distance in his local courthouse convinced him it was safe to resume trials.
“We have a lot of space in the courthouse and the infection rate drops to the point where I think we are in pretty good shape,” said Mühl.
Muehl said his most recent trials were due to take place last August but were canceled when two accused drug dealers who were released due to changes to the bail law fled the jurisdiction.
The long delay has caused problems, said the veteran prosecutor.
“It was difficult because sometimes witnesses move away or victims change their minds,” he said.
With infection rates soaring over the past year, Governor Andrew Cuomo suspended portions of the Criminal Procedure Act that required speedy trials, grand jury presentations and the face-to-face appearance of defendants in some criminal cases.
Dennis Quirk, president of the New York State Court Officers Association, said the delay in vaccinating judges and others involved in legal proceedings will bring risks.
“The judges are out of shape on this,” Quirk said. “There’s no point that an Uber driver or the guy who cuts cold cuts at the deli can get the vaccine, but they don’t want to give it to judges who come to the courthouse on public transport.”
DiFiore emphasized in her statement that safety comes first.
“You can be assured that we are making responsible decisions and that no lawyers, jury or witnesses will be asked to report to our courthouses unless we are confident we can ensure that the correct health and safety protocols are in place are, “she said.
Joe Mahoney reports on the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at [email protected]