At 9:45 p.m. on Friday, August 13, 2021, nearly four years after the investigation began, and three and one-half years after charges were filed, a Jackson, County, MI jury found a grateful client NOT GUILTY of Criminal Sexual Conduct in the First Degree. The jury deliberated just over 2 hours following a 5-day trial at the Circuit Court in downtown Jackson. The client faced up to life in prison if convicted.
This case, which was the first felony jury trial in Jackson since COVID, underscored the challenges of jury trials in the post-Covid era. For example, some jurors wore masks during the initial phases of jury selection. I wanted them to wear a clear plastic shield before ever entering the courtroom. Face masks resulted in an inability to evaluate potential juror’s expressions during critical preliminary questioning by the court. Although required to wear a clear plastic shield instead of a mask once called into the jury box during later stages of jury selection, the defense team could not gauge some prospective juror’s reactions when they learned for the first time that the alleged victim was a child at the time of the alleged offense. Facial expressions are often the only indication of what a prospective juror is thinking or feeling. Covid-19 robbed the defense team of that opportunity with some jurors. Had there been a conviction, this certainly would have been an issue for an appeal.
This case also underscores the significance of delays in proceeding to trial as a result of Covid-19. From March 2020 until August 2021 Covid-19 essentially shut the Jackson County Circuit Court down for jury trials. Consequently, clients like the one acquitted last week have had to wait for justice. The emotional and financial consequences (to mention only a few) of facing serious criminal charges with no resolution for years can be profound. Fortunately, our client had been released on bond. But what about those accused of serious crimes that remain incarcerated before trial? How long will they have to wait for justice to be done in their cases? The post-Covid trial backlog brings to life the old saying that “justice delayed is justice denied”.
If you or a loved one faces criminal investigation, court proceedings, or trial, be sure to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney with a proven track record of favorable results in the post-Covid era.