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Suspension of jury trials extended to July

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The suspension of in-person jury trials in the state has been extended to July 2 amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

The extension comes under a new emergency order issued Monday by Florida’s Chief Justice Charles Canady. Canady previously suspended all jury trials, grand jury proceedings, jury selection proceedings, and criminal and civil trials to late May because of the public health emergency.

“In-person jury trials pose a special hazard because they can expose jurors and other courtroom participants to a risk of infection,” court officials said in a news release. “Future extensions will be considered if needed.”

The order also increased the list of other court procedures that can be conducted by remote electronic means. The rule aims to shift as many cases as possible into a virtual environment.

The new court procedures that can now be conducted remotely include:

“The expanded list of essential proceedings adds to earlier efforts to mitigate the impact of coronavirus while letting courts operate in a way consistent with public safety,” court officials said.

“The move toward more virtual proceedings is a major historical shift in state court operations, which have relied heavily on in-person hearings in the 175 years Florida has been a state.”

The previous order allowed notaries – and other officials qualified to administer an oath – to swear in witnesses remotely by audio-video. The order also allowed county and circuit courts to continue performing essential proceedings, including first appearances, criminal arraignments, and motion hearings.

All non-essential and non-critical court activities were previously suspended. The previous order also suspended speedy trial procedures until June 1.

Under the new order, some requirements for in-person preliminary hearings in first-degree murder cases were suspended until July 2. The regulation also suspends the requirement that defendants in the murder cases will be automatically released from custody if prosecutors are not able to file charges within 40 days.

On April 2, Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended other court-related matters, including foreclosures and evictions, for 45 days.

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