CLEVELAND (WJW)– The Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court is suspending jury trials for the next month and officials are even talking about releasing some inmates to reduce the number of people at the Cuyahoga County Justice Center. It’s all to cut down on the risk of spreading the deadly coronavirus.
The FOX 8 I-Team captured Cuyahoga County judges going to a closed-door meeting, where they decided to put off all jury trials for a month with only rare exceptions.
Cleveland Municipal Court also is postponing jury trials in the same way.
Those moves could greatly cut down on the number of people passing through the justice center, a complex including the courts, the jail, police headquarters and more. It’s become one of the busiest buildings in Northeast Ohio.
Other changes also could affect you and your neighbors.
Every week in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, about 350 people walk in after getting called for jury duty. They have to check in and wait around to see if they’ll be picked to hear a case. But now the county court, for the first time, will allow people to call in to see if they might be needed, instead of making a trip inside the building.
And we definitely need to limit the exposure so that the building is safe and our employees are safe,” said County Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan.
The I-Team learned officials are also looking into releasing some inmates from the Cuyahoga County Jail to reduce the number of people in the complex. The county is also considering putting limits on visitors allowed to see inmates.
Defense attorney Anthony Jordan said the court can’t completely shut down with new people getting arrested and hit with charges all the time.
“You need to be heard immediately. That’s a constitutional right. That, I don’t look to be changed by the virus,” Jordan said.
On Wednesday, we saw people walking through the justice center wearing masks. We also saw a cleaning crew hard at work in the middle of the day.
“They should do whatever they think is safe. If it means closing the building, close the building,” said one man with a mask.
The Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office said officials should decide within days how to release some prisoners and how many could be freed.
Also, Cleveland Municipal Court has another way to help limit people coming into the justice center. Many people charged with crimes in municipal court can plead not guilty online. They can do that by going to clevelandmunicipalcourt.org.