Rise in COVID-19 cases put jury trials on hold again

36th District Court and Frank Murphy Hall of Justice are putting trials on hold indefinitely

All jury trials at the 36th District Court have been put on hold after employees caught COVID-19.
All jury trials at the 36th District Court have been put on hold after employees caught COVID-19.

DETROIT – All jury trials at the 36th District Court have been put on hold after an employee with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office tested positive for COVID-19

“I have been informed that an assistant prosecuting attorney who was present in the building yesterday, Oct. 7, has tested positive for COVID-19,” Chief Judge William McConico alerted court employees through email. "My understanding is that this individual only visited the second floor conference room.”

Insiders said they are furious and believe there have been no contract tracing, they’ve gotten no alert from the Wayne County Health Department and it’s even unclear who the positive prosecutor came into contact with that day.

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said there have been three people in the office that tested positive for COVID-19, they were not in courtrooms and they have been quarantined.

Jury trials just resumed at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, but this week brought mass courtroom confusion.

One attorney writing the presiding judge about trials put on hold: “I understand jury trials have been suspended for the time being (or that’s the talk around FMHJ).”

The presiding judge responded: "Yes, jury trials have been halted due to an increase in COVID cases and positive case in the WCPO.”

The first case to be put on hold was Trevaun Pearson. He was charged with attempted murder, accused of shooting a man back in April.

Pearson doesn’t have the $200,000 bond and has to wait inside the Wayne County Jail.

McConico said the court notified all staff and arranged for sanitation in the affected area within hours.

“Our COVID-19 infection rate has been very low overall due to our stringent safety measures, and we have not experienced a case of COVID-19 in several weeks. Our court has always been at the forefront for instituting strict safety protocols, and for allowing the greater use of technology to replace in-person proceedings to every extent possible,” he said.

McConico said the court has not conducted any jury trials since March, and no summons were sent this month. There is no plan to resume jury trials “until the numbers in the State of Michigan return to a safer level.”

““The 36th District Court takes the safety of its employees, its bench, and the community extremely seriously. All decisions relating to the phased re-opening of our building, cleaning protocols, modifications to workspaces and public areas, and increased security to ensure social distancing, for example, have been made with the utmost care,” he said.

McConico added, "While the situation at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in this regard was indeed, concerning, it did not influence our own plans.”

About the Authors:

Shawn Ley is an Emmy-Award winning reporter. In more than 20 years covering stories in television news, Shawn’s reporting has taken him from war-torn eastern Europe, to reporting from an F-16 fighter jet and now to the fast and furious breaking news of Detroit.

Dane is a producer and media enthusiast. He previously worked freelance video production and writing jobs in Michigan, Georgia and Massachusetts. Dane graduated from the Specs Howard School of Media Arts.