MILWAUKEE -- In-person jury trials will resume in Milwaukee County Circuit Court Monday, July 20, after the coronavirus pandemic brought them to a halt. On Friday, July 17, FOX6 News got a tour, with two courtrooms carefully prepared for trials to resume.
"A defendant has a right to a jury trial, and they have a right to be in person," said Chief Judge Mary Triggiano.
Since the shutdown in March, roughly 250 criminal trials were backlogged -- some waiting months for their day in court.
"They have been sitting in jail without access to courts for their trial for quite some time," said Triggiano.
Triggiano said a team of health experts appointed by the county spent months preparing for a slow reopening, and they still won't be operating at even 40% capacity.
"When we were shutting down the courts, we started doing recovery planning right away," said Triggiano. "On some of the tables, you'll see Purell, and disinfectant and wipes, adding markers for social distancing, but the biggest difference and change that we've created is actually, we now have Plexiglass separating people in the courtroom who may need to be within 6 feet of each other."
For anyone feeling sick, court officials said they want you to let them know, and stay away from the building. Masks will be required for those well enough to go inside.
"We know the virus is rising, and so, we are still going to encourage everyone to Zoom and video conference if we can," said Triggiano.
Summoned jurors nervous to enter a Plexiglass box will have the option to defer their duty to another time.
"We respect that because we don't know what people's stories are," said Deputy Chief Judge Carl Ashley. "It's about the importance of the obligation because it's a constitutional right, a right that we respect and we want everyone to have that right."
Only family members will be allowed in the gallery in the courtroom. For everyone else, live streaming is the only option.
If this reopening goes well, the chief judge said they may resume more proceedings in the future.