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Low turnout of potential jurors as trials resume in SD County

Posted at 3:32 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 21:20:47-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - On Wednesday, ABC10 News interviewed San Diego County Superior Court Presiding Judge Lorna Alksne about this week's first criminal jury trial since all jury trials were halted in March.

“We summoned 800 jurors and about 250 or so postponed their service like we told them to do if they felt uncomfortable or had a conflict or co-morbidity or something like that and of the remaining jurors we called in, only 41 showed,” she told ABC10 News and added, “The system doesn't work without jurors.” She went on to say, “I can only anecdotally think that people are unsure of public transportation or coming back Downtown to serve.”

Wednesday marked the second day of the trial which was for an elder abuse case.

Judge Alksne said that the courts have sufficient safety measures in place for jurors. “When they went back into the courtroom, they had these plexiglass barriers in between them if they're more than six feet apart and everyone wore masks and there was hand sanitizer everywhere. It's as safe as going to Costco,” she told ABC10 News.

The courts have maintained that the only way to address the backlog of cases is with cooperation from San Diegans who are called for duty. She added, “What I [asked] the jurors yesterday was if you had a loved one who was incarcerated [and] pending trial and nobody showed up to do jury trial, how would they ever get their chance for their day in court?”

Judge Alksne said that another trial is scheduled for next week and two are scheduled for the following week. The numbers of summonses will continue to increase. She explained that there's no plan to penalize people who do not appear for jury duty but that could change if turnout continues to be low.