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Allen Superior Court Continues Social Distancing For Jurors, Digs Out Of Trial Backlog

FILE PHOTO: Rebecca Green

It’s been nearly a year since jury trials resumed in Indiana’s courthouses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Allen County’s busy Superior Court is about a year behind in criminal trials, and still working to keep everyone safe as they catch up.


Allen Superior Judge Fran Gull recognizes the unique role jurors play in the criminal justice process, as the only truly involuntary participants in the system.


With no mask requirement, and vaccination status of potential jurors unknown, courthouse officials are using social distancing to keep everyone safe. 


“In talking with jurors, they want that. They don’t want to be shoulder to shoulder in the jury box," Gull said. "They don’t want to be shoulder to shoulder in the jury assembly areas.”


That means the spacious courtrooms in the historic building are still more empty than not, even when court is in session.


Gull anticipates this will continue along a timeline dictated by the jurors and the pandemic itself.


“The pandemic isn’t listening...the pandemic will go away when it feels (like it)," Gull said.


Court officials anticipate increasing the number of spectators allowed in the courtrooms, and putting jurors back closer together if the rate of community spread continues to decrease.


The court calendar is now catching up and is now about a year behind, having reached what Gull calls a "significant backlog" of about 18 months earlier this year.


Rebecca manages the news at WBOI. She joined the staff in December 2017, and brought with her nearly two decades of experience in print journalism, including 15 years as an award-winning reporter for the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne.