Will COVID-19 Affect Jury Trials?

The fear of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having a dramatic effect on our legal system. Many counties in Michigan are adjourning jury trials until further notice. The criminal defendant who is fighting for their freedom is now faced with a challenging proposition: Will their freedom be compromised for the health and safety of society. To discuss the impact of this issue in the state of Michigan, we spoke to three of the top criminal defense attorneys in our state.

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates. Grabel’s law firm is known as the top criminal defense team across the state of Michigan and generally runs over 40 jury trials per year. When asked about the impact of COVID-19 on jury trials, Grabel stated, “This has become a wait and see proposition. While I’m sure that trial dockets will stabilize at some point, we don’t know how long this process will take. This will allow us to prepare even more so for our clients but also creates a lot of uncertainty to the criminal justice system.”

William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as one of the top trial lawyers across the state of Michigan and has had his docket compromised. Amadeo provided commentary when he said, “From March 31 to June 25, I had five jury trials across the state. My Lenawee County trial on March 31 has been adjourned for an indefinite period. The other cases are in limbo. There is a chance that resolutions could be reached during these trying times, but I have been in a cold war of sorts on these cases. There is a chance that COVID-19 will allow cooler heads to prevail, but the unknown is frustrating for people faced with the loss of their freedom. As a criminal defense lawyer, it is time for all of us to step our game up with communicating with our clients.”

Joe Brugnoli is a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates and known as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Kent County, Michigan. Brugnoli provided insight on the issue by saying, “Courts are scared to bring in jurors. We do not know who a carrier is of COVID-19, we are not aware who is truly sick, and we are uncertain of the long-term effects of this tragedy. We can hope for the best, but we still have to prepare as if we are going to trial tomorrow. The freedom of our clients always has to be the top priority. That cannot change.”

While Michigan and the United States are faced with the unknown, access to jury pools and the voir dire process will become more critical than ever before. In uncertain times, the one certainty is that the criminal defense lawyer will need to be on top of their game.

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