COVID-19 precaution halts jury selection process for one case at Orange County courthouse

Dismissal had nothing to do with the facts of the case

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An Orange County judge stopped a jury selection process in its tracks Wednesday afternoon. The dismissal had nothing to do with the facts of the case.

Criminal Trial Lawyer Richard Hornsby said the process was well underway until a prospective juror said she tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks earlier.

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“We were picking a jury today and one of the jurors during the jury questioning said that she had tested positive and she was still fatigued,” Hornsby said.

Since the pandemic took hold in the spring, COVID-19 has brought with it a new set of precautions like required masks, temperature checks by people entering the courthouse, plus a series of virus-related questions.

“I think we’re all just trying to get through it, we’re making the best of it because we realize we’re going to have to get back to work so we are going to have to figure out a new normal for the time being,” Hornsby said.

Hornsby said the presiding judge promptly took action and put the safety of the jury pool first out of an abundance of caution.

“She immediately paused everything and called the attorneys up and she was extremely concerned I would almost describe her as emotional,” Hornsby said.

Court administrators issued a statement to News6 about the incident and said:

During a jury selection process today, a prospective juror did respond that she had tested positive for COVID-19 on October 12, 2020, more than two full weeks ago.  The prospective juror indicated that she had not gone for any follow-up testing, but that she is and has been symptom-free, and has already returned to work.   This prospective juror was masked and safely socially distanced from all other potential jurors consistent with the safety protocols.

While the jury selection process could not move forward, Hornsby said it was encouraging to see prospective jurors ready to engage.

“They are showing up in a surprising way because you expect a lot of people to get out of it but today they had over 100 people that showed up which is a lot of people under the circumstances,” Hornsby said.

About the Author:

Nicky Zizaza is an Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 6 nightside team in December 2018. She is originally from Rwanda and she started her journalism career in the nation's capital.