COVID-19 and Delay of Jury Trials

By Ayanna Neal, The Legal Examiner

Today the Michigan Supreme Court issued Administrative Order 2020-10 delaying all jury trials from today’s date for 60 days, “until June 20, 2020, or as otherwise provided for by local order, whichever date is later.” Defendants should not be forced to remain incarcerated while their constitutional right to a speedy trial under the Sixth Amendment is being violated.  Defendants should not have to remain in a jail where social distancing is not possible, and the risk of contracting COVID-19 is increased.

The Sixth Amendment provides, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”

The right to a speedy trial secures rights to a defendant. A defendant does not have to show actual prejudice by delay.  The court is to balance four factors to decide if a defendant’s right to a speedy trial has been violated. The four factors are:  the length of the delay, the reason for the delay, the defendant’s assertion of his right and prejudice to the defendant. Generally, the individual circumstances for delay in each case is to be assessed. But with all the criminal cases pending before the courts, the reason for the delay currently is the same, COVID-19.

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