All juries for Douglas County criminal cases continued to Jan. 1

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Published: Nov. 6, 2020 at 10:08 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The local resurgence of COVID-19 in Douglas County has led to all jury trials to be postponed until Jan. 1 of 2021, according to a ruling handed down by District Court Judge Horacio Wheelock on Friday.

Any and all criminal cases to include a jury between Nov. 9 and Jan. 1 of 2021 “are all continued to the next available jury trial section date,” Wheelock’s ruling reads.

The decision stems from public health recommendations and the “resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic within Douglas County,” according to the court filing.

“It is undeniable that by all objective measures the COVID-19 pandemic is more severe today in Douglas County (...) than it has been since its inception in Nebraska.”

Also, the Douglas County Courthouse will have restricted access to the public, which includes social distancing, the use of masks and no more than 10 people are allowed in a courtroom at any given time.

Evidence suppression hearings for those not in jail are also continued to after Jan. 1, unless the prosecution and defense agree to hold such hearings through “audiovisual platforms.”

All previously scheduled bench trials (a trial in which the judge acts as the jury) where the accused has waived their right to a jury trial prior to Nov. 6 will take place as scheduled.

“The Court specifically finds continuing these criminal jury trials outweigh the citizen accused’s right to a speedy trial as well as the public’s interest in the prompt disposition of these criminal cases,” Wheelock’s ruling stated.

Sentencing hearings will take place through video conferencing unless the defendant requests it be done in-person.

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