Denver, Boulder counties extend suspension of jury trials until Feb. 11 due to omicron

Denver, Boulder counties extend suspension of jury trials
Posted at 5:01 PM, Jan 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-23 19:19:31-05

DENVER — Jury trials are delayed again in Denver and Boulder counties over high positivity rates thanks to the omicron variant.

The chief judges in both judicial districts issued orders Friday, extending the suspension of jury trials from Jan. 28 and Feb. 11. They were suspended for the third time in the pandemic at the beginning of the year.

"I imagine all of us are united in being done with this virus, but the virus certainly is not done with us," Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty said Sunday. "These delays are incredibly difficult for victims, witnesses, law enforcement and also for the accused."

Delays like these, Dougherty says, worsen the backlog of criminal trials the courts still have yet to see through. But he understands exactly why it's necessary.

"Witnesses, staff, victims and law enforcement are all testing positive right now," he said. "We have judges who've tested positive. So the impact on all the players in the justice system has been, as in every job sector, incredibly significant."

While courthouses are still open and handling some proceedings, both online and in person, Dougherty says jury trials are unique. They can be a breeding ground for more COVID cases, especially because of how contagious the omicron variant is, even with measures in place.

"For trials, if you could picture it, it's almost like having a small wedding, where people are going to be coming in, over 100 people for each felony jury trial, sitting in a room together," he said.

Jury trials are required, by law, to happen in person, so it may take longer for the families of both victims and those accused to get the justice they long for unless things improve soon. Both orders can be amended to extend the suspensions.