Courts prepare for next phase of trials


BOSTON (SHNS) – Twelve-person jury trials in some Superior Court cases will be able to resume next month in the next step toward reopening the state’s judicial system after significant impacts from COVID-19, officials announced Thursday.

The state Supreme Judicial Court issued an updated order on Thursday, which takes effect May 1, outlining Phase 3 of court operations. Under the order, 12-person jury trials can take place for criminal and sexually dangerous person cases in Superior Court. Some may continue to be tried before six-person juries with consent from parties, while other cases such as civil matters that might normally involve a 12-person jury will instead take place before juries of six in an attempt to maximize the number of trials that can take place at one time.

“We are ready to increase the number and locations of jury trials,” SJC Chief Justice Kimberly Budd said in a statement. “But our courts will need to follow recommended health and safety practices, including mask-wearing, frequent hand washing, physical distancing, and courtroom and courthouse occupancy limitations, for some time to come.” Some court operations will remain virtual where possible during Phase 3. 

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