With a three-week limited jury trial docket approaching on Sept. 28, many county residents are receiving summons to serve.
Although the threat of COVID-19 remains, planning from the district judges of Comanche County is focused on making the citizens’ duty as safe as possible.
Comanche County Chief District Judge Emmit Tayloe said that jurors will be summoned to the Comanche County Coliseum Annex, 920 S. Sheridan. Normally, they would arrive to the Comanche County Courthouse; however, to ensure proper social distancing, the new location was selected. Masks are mandatory. Temperature checks will be conducted at the door.
“Our intention is to protect the public during their service as jurors to the best of our ability not only during the qualification process at the Coliseum but also during any jury trials held at the courthouse,” he said.
Jurors will be qualified at the annex. Tayloe said he will meet with potential jurors who feel they shouldn’t serve due to COVID-19-related reasons.
“If jury service would be a physical hardship or would possibly subject them or others to COVID-19, they will be excused,” he said.
Once a panel large enough is assembled to begin a trial, jurors will be sent to the courthouse and will meet at the jury assembly room. Seating will include an acceptable social distance, Tayloe said. They will then be taken to the courtroom to begin jury selection.
“We should be able to keep them at an acceptable social distance during this process as well,” he said. “I don’t think the public, to include the press, will be permitted to enter the courtroom until jury selection has concluded.”
Tayloe said he wants the public informed about this change for jurors so they can feel secure they are being safeguarded from contracting the virus to the best of abilities.
The chief judge said the process has been “extremely difficult to put together.” He credits many with making it come together.
“The judges have met to design this process and it would not be possible without the input and assistance of Johnny Owens, county commissioner, and Robert Morales, court clerk,” he said. “We have also received advice and assistance from Fred Smith, district attorney; Teressa Williams, attorney for the Oklahoma Indigent Defense system; and Brandie Combs with the Health Department.”
COVID-19-concerns has made it difficult for the court system to manage its way through a smooth process to expedite due process. No inmates have made in-person appearances since March; all hearings are conducted virtually.
Tayloe said that making all the necessary appearances guaranteed by the Oklahoma and federal Constitution “has been trying at best.” The last trial docket was canceled and January into February was the last time cases have come before juries in Comanche County. He hopes this run will make the January 2021 docket run even better.
“We may not get all the cases tried that need to be presented to a jury this docket, but we need to start getting back to ‘normal’ at some time,” he said.
If you have concerns that answering the summons would subject you or someone else to a physical hardship, Tayloe asked you call him to consider being excused from service, 580-581-4595.
Written by Scott Rains: email@example.com.