The Arkansas Supreme Court on Friday has suspended jury trials across the state until at least Jan. 15, citing a "dramatic uptick" in covid-19 infections.
It is the second time this year that the high court has suspended jury trials because of the coronavirus.
The announcement, made in a per curiam opinion from the seven-member court, will allow jury trials already underway to continue for the time being. Judges were also told to continue conducting other court proceedings either in-person or through video or teleconferencing.
"The Arkansas Supreme Court does not take lightly the decision to halt jury trials," the per curiam read. "It weighs on this court that we are exposing the hundreds of citizen jurors around the state who are being summoned to do their civic jury duty, as well as increasing our court personnel’s risk of daily exposure to the virus. The dramatic uptick in cases in Arkansas requires us, as leaders of the state judiciary, to do our part to help protect Arkansans."
The high court suspended jury trials for several months earlier this year after the pandemic fist broke out in March. That suspension was lifted on June 30, with instructions to limit the number participants and spectators in the courtroom.
Pandemic delays in criminal cases were excluded from speedy-trial requirements under previous order by the Supreme Court.
Friday's opinion addressed "that there are defendants awaiting trial beyond twelve months." It also ordered lower courts to review their dockets for any defendants who have been awaiting trial for over a year, and who have not posted bond, to determine if there is reason to reconsider those defendants' bond amounts.