Jury trials, which require jurors to spend time together sequestered in close quarters, were suspended in mid-March and will not resume in the state until at least May 23, although that order from the state's Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye could be extended.

All cases that require a jury trial have been put on hold in Siskiyou County, although the District Attorney’s office continues to work through the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected so many facets of daily life.

Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus said crime does not stop during a pandemic so they are still dealing with cases each day, although crime countywide is down bit overall.

Jury trials, which require jurors to spend time together sequestered in close quarters, were suspended in mid-March and will not resume in the state until at least May 23, although that order from the state’s Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye could be extended.

Andrus said his office is still preparing cases and he feels that jury cases likely will resume in June. This includes the Damion Doyle murder trial, which was originally scheduled to begin April 1. Doyle is accused of shooting his adopted parents to death in 2016.

To keep a safe social distance, courtroom technology is being used to conduct business, Andrus said. For instance, the juvenile court has been making appearances using Webex for about three weeks. Arraignments have also been happening through live video.

Since last month, local courts throughout the state have been allowed to set up remote hearings via teleconference technology and for counsel to appear on behalf of defendants in pretrial proceedings.

There’s less staff at the DA;s office as some employees are taking leave or working from home.

Andrus said his office is doing extra research on upcoming court cases and talking to additional witnesses with the additional time they now have. The tricky part, he said, is these interviews are done by law enforcement and it can be a challenge to find ways to conduct them with the stay-at-home order in place.2

“It’s a double-edged sword,” Andrus said.

Due to the pandemic, California’s Judicial Council in April announced that misdemeanors and low-level felonies bail is set at $0, such as certain types of burglary, to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in jails by reducing the number of those incarcerated.

Because of this, local law enforcement has seen some cases of repeat offenders. Andrus said there was an incident a few weeks back where a suspect was arrested for burglary in Siskiyou County and the next day was arrested again for the same offense.

“I’m dealing with the cards I’m given,” he said. “We can’t control the law. We are doing the best job we can under the circumstances due to COVID-19.”

While crime is down, Andrus is concerned many cases, such as domestic violence and child abuse, are not being reported, with people being asked to stay in their homes and school not in session.

“It’s hard to say what’s truly really happening right now,” Andrus said. “Not being able to know for sure is a troubling situation.”

When the courts open for jury trials again, “things will get quite hectic,” Andrus said. “There’s going to be a rush of cases. There’s going to be a lot of work to do.”

It’s unclear how comfortable people will be in a room packed with potential jurors, Andrus said. So, there could be changes made to ensure there are fewer people in the courtroom.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how we’re going to institute justice while keeping social distancing at the same time,” he said. “We just hope things will resume to normal once that is safe to do so ... It’s hard to say when that will be. We are looking at safe, responsible access to justice. What we are dealing with right now is unprecedented.”

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