Is the Jury out on Zoom Trials?

COVID-19 has affected many across the United States and has created what many have phrased as the “new normal.” Governor Gretchen Whitmer has extended the “stay at home” order until May 15, and the Michigan Supreme Court has adjourned all trials until at least June 22, 2020. Administrative Order 2020-10 has mentioned that a “Pilot Program” made be put in place for jury trials where our circuit courts may allow jury trials via Zoom. We spoke to some of the top criminal lawyers in our state to get their perspective on this issue.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates. Grabel’s firm is known as the top criminal defense team in the state of Michigan. When asked about Zoom trials, Grabel said, “We need to fight this. We are risking the freedom of others if we move to remote trials. The concept of jury trials is embedded in our history. If we move from that, we are asking for a compromise of the United States Constitution.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates covering Wayne and Shiawassee Counties. Amadeo said, “This is a joke. How am I going to conduct Voir Dire? At a place like Frank Murphy, Voir Dire is where the rubber meets the road. What’s next, should I just potential jurors a text? We cannot let any pilot program happen, and if the courts allow it, we all better get into motion practice.”

Nancy Eaton-Gordon is a partner at Jackson Eaton-Gordon in Lenawee County, Michigan, and a top criminal defense at

torney. Eaton Gordon provided insight when she said, “When we have one’s freedom on the line, we have to fight to protect our clients. It will be difficult to fight an issue on Zoom.”
Joe Brugnoli is a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates and one of the top criminal defense lawyers in Kent County, Michigan. Brugnoli added, “We are in a very different period. I understand that the court is concerned with the judicial economy. Still, if I’m given the responsibility of protecting one’s freedom, I need to be able to practice our craft. That cannot be accomplished on Zoom.”

While the jury is still out on the issue of Zoom in our courts, trials are on hold. Speedy trial issues are going to become a significant issue shortly. While the Michigan Supreme Court is looking for answers to preserve the judicial economy, defense lawyers are fighting for the freedom of their clients. The question that we are left with is if things will ever be back to normal?

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