Why jury trials are suspended in the 2nd Judicial Circuit

Local News

More than 190 people are hospitalized in South Dakota because of COVID-19. That’s the latest number from the state’s health department.

69 of those patients are in the Sioux Falls area, according to a city website.

The hospitalization trend is causing a change for some jury trials in Minnehaha and Lincoln Counties.

Jury trials in the 2nd Judicial Circuit are suspended for now.

According to a notice sent to the 2nd Circuit Bar Association from Presiding Judge Robin Houwman, the suspension is due to the increasing numbers of COVID-related hospitalizations in the community.

Court administrator Karl Thoennes says other metrics are taken into consideration as well.

“Continued high testing levels, a lot of citizens and jurors in situations where they may be quarantined, they may be pending an outcome of a COVID test, Judge Houwman considered all the metrics that she’s used over the last few months to consider whether we could do jury trials,” 2nd Judicial Circuit Court Administrator Karl Thoennes said.

As of right now, jury trials scheduled through October 13th in the 2nd Judicial Circuit are to be reset.

Trials were suspended earlier in the pandemic, but they resumed in mid-June.

“Fortunately, we don’t have a very large backlog in jury trials because of the progress we were able to make between June and now,” Thoennes said.

Thoennes says on average there are about 2-3 trials a week in the 2nd Judicial Circuit.

“We want to be cautious. We want to be confident that we’re not asking the public to do something that will put them at risk and so we’ve come to this cautionary point,” Thoennes said.

According to the notice, the 2nd circuit will prioritize trials for defendants who are in custody once trial resume.

As for right now, here are the criteria for resuming trials:

No confirmed COVID-19 cases of Courthouse staff in the last 10 days

Lifting of all Executive and DOH Orders related to the particular county

Continued low COVID-19 hospitalization rates in the county over the last 14 days

Consultation with local health officials

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