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Jury Trials in L.A. County Canceled for Rest of March
By City News Service
Published March 16, 2020

   All criminal and civil trials in Los Angeles County will be suspended for the rest of the month effective Monday due to the
coronavirus outbreak, according to an official police memo.

“Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, there will be a suspension of all jury trials, both those currently in progress, as well as those pending commencement, through March 30th. This notification applies to jury trials only,” the memo reads, according to CNN, which cited Los Angeles Police Department spokesperson Josh Rubenstein as confirming its contents.

Officer Rosario Cervantes of the LAPD’s Media Relations Section confirmed to City News Service that a memo was issued, but she would not confirm its contents.

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The order follows a request Friday by Presiding Judge Kevin C. Brazile of the Los Angeles County Superior Court system, who called for a 30-day delay of all new civil jury trials. He also said criminal jury trials should be pushed back by 30 days, in cases where the defendants have agreed to the delay.

Brazile also called on the court to limit requests for new jurors for the next month, “due to concerns about juror availability.”

However, the judge made it clear Friday that he did not have the authority to order such measures.

According to the CNN report, officials will re-examine the suspension decision before March 30.

Among the cases affected by the delay is the murder trial of New York real estate scion Robert Durst, where testimony was scheduled to resume Monday but has now been pushed back to April 6.

“Judge Mark E. Windham today ordered that the People v. Robert Durst trial stands adjourned until April 6,” an advisory from the court system said Sunday. “Seated and alternate jurors in the trial are instructed to return to Department 81 on Monday, April 6. Jurors assigned to this case should contact Department 81 or Jury Services with questions.”

Durst — the subject of HBO’s 2015 documentary series “Jinx” — is accused of murdering Susan Berman, his longtime friend, at her home in the Benedict Canyon area of Los Angeles just before Christmas 2000. He is alleged to have killed Berman because she had knowledge of his role in his wife’s disappearance in 1982.

Superior Court officials said earlier Friday that anyone who is called for jury duty but feels sick should postpone their service.

“The court is working with justice partners to identify ways to reduce the need for in-person appearances while performing legally mandated functions and respecting litigants’ due-process rights, including expanding video and telephone appearances,” according to the court.

Court officials stressed that anyone experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing, or if “you believe you have been exposed to the virus, please do not come to the courthouse.”

Anyone who has been summoned for jury duty and either feels sick or believes they may have been exposed to the virus can postpone their jury service through the online portal at https://juryportal.lacourt.org/webportal, by calling 213-972-0970 or calling the Juror Assembly Room number listed on the summons.

Jurors who have already been assigned to a courtroom should contact the courtroom directly.

Attorneys, plaintiffs, defendants or witnesses should also contact the individual courtroom if they feel sick or believe they’ve been exposed to illness.

Court officials noted that some court functions can be completed online at www.lacourt.org without the need of coming to the courthouse.

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