A group of Utah criminal defense lawyers are calling on Governor Spencer Cox to resume trials in the state and put those involved on the COVID-19 vaccine list.
Almost all legal proceedings have been suspended for almost a year, since last year when the coronavirus pandemic began.
The Utah Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers issued a letter calling for the retrial of trials in Utah, “especially for remand prisoners in custody.”
“This is not about a particular case, but rather defending the sacred constitutional concepts of speedy trial, due process, and open access to justice, all of which are rights enshrined in both the United States and Utah constitutions are.” the letter says.
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The association claims that it only knows of one legal process that took place during the pandemic. Now that the vaccine has become more prevalent, lawyers are hoping that legal proceedings can resume.
In the letter, they suggested vaccinating judges, court staff and the “relatively small number of people” needed to conduct the trials against COVID-19. That would include:
- Court staff
- Court security personnel
- Prison and prison transport officers
- Defendants defendants
- Prosecutors and their staff
- Defense lawyers and their staff
- Potential jurors
“It would not be difficult to give vaccines to a group that has been informed they will be called to jury service and those who will be called as witnesses, starting with the first dose given at least a few weeks before a trial . ” Letter states.
The association said that including these people in the next round of vaccine approvals “would avoid the constitutional crisis in our courts”.
The letter was sent to Cox weeks after the Utah courts announced they would resume trials on January 25.
According to a YouTube video, anyone entering the courthouse will have their temperature checked upon entering and must wear masks that cover their mouth and nose. The courthouse will provide a mask for those who don’t have one.
All jurors, judges, bailiffs, attorneys, defendants, witnesses, and court staff involved in the trial must perform a rapid COVID-19 test on the first day of the trial at an on-site testing center. The video says that pre-registration instructions for the rapid test will be emailed to people before the first day of testing.
According to Court PIO Geoferry Fattah, the first trial was due to take place on January 25 at Matheson Court House and the second on February 8 in Duchesne County.