Moving to A Hybrid Model
To select jurors safely and effectively for in-person hearings, the state has implemented a new 4 step selection process that begins with virtual screenings before any jurors are required to report in-person.
The New 4 Step Juror Selection and Reporting Process
Step 1 – Virtual Selection
The judge will hold virtual video meetings to provide basic information about the case and excuse jurors for cause if necessary. With the coronavirus in mind, any person who is older than 65 years of age and/or has any of the below pre-existing conditions will be pardoned:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Immunocompromised State from Solid Organ Transplant
- Serious Heart Conditions
- Sickle Cell Disease
- Type 2 Diabetes
Step 2 – Individualized Virtual Questioning
Juror candidates who are not excused in phase one will then be questioned individually. This phase of questioning will mainly focus on whether the juror in question is more or less likely to believe police testimony.
Step 3 – In-Person Final Phase of Selection
In this phase, the jurors still deemed to be qualified will report in person. To accommodate for social distancing, limited numbers of jurors will report in person at a time. Many safety precautions recommended by the CDC have been implemented in the courts to safely communicate with the potential jurors. This includes plexiglass barriers, face shields, separate rooms if a private discussion is necessary, and video feeds allowing for potential jurors to be in different rooms while being able to see all of the pertinent stages of the selection process.
Step 4 – In-Person Trial
To protect any and all jurors selected to serve on a case, many safety measures have been implemented so that they may feel as comfortable as possible throughout the entire process. Below are some of the measures that are being taken by the state:
- Coordinating a text message program for each individual juror with COVID-19 screening questions reminding them not to report if sick.
- Managing staggered schedules to avoid over-crowding.
- Mandating face masks and providing masks to those that need one.
- Organizing specific routes to get to courtrooms and limiting elevator use to 1 or 2 people at a time.
- Gallery seating will be organized to keep a 6-foot distance between each juror.
- Providing jurors will personal materials such as sanitizers and notepads/pens.
The NJ Courts system has implemented a robust strategy to reduce the spread of the coronavirus while resuming in-person appearances. You can visit the NJ Courts website to learn about the entire process if you would like to learn more.