GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Citing a trend in positive cases over a 14-day period, Kent County Circuit Court administrators said they’ve gotten the green light to prepare for limited, in-person hearings.
The Kent County Health Department said the court is OK to begin those hearings again starting the first day of March.
“The way we’re preceding is very safe,” said Mark Trusock, chief judge of the Kent County Circuit Court. “One person comes in at a time, there’s a prosecutor, defense attorney, they’re socially distant and everybody must wear a mask.”
Trusock, who told News 8 he’s received the COVID-19 vaccine, said he, his staff, victims, suspects and loved ones may also be in the courtroom for sentencings or status hearings.
“All we can do is do what we can do,” Trusock said.
As it stands, no trials may take place. Officials said it’s not yet safe to bring in jurors until the county reports fewer than 47 COVID-19 cases per day over a seven-day period.
“We haven’t had a trial in almost a year, and we have about 12 to 14 murder cases that are backed up right now that we are waiting for on trials, let alone other cases that are just as serious,” Trusock said.
In the meantime, Trusock said his administration is looking at the possibility of using rapid tests as a way to test jurors and witnesses to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. He said that could play a role in helping them resume trials.
“We do not want people sitting in jail without trials, but unfortunately, due to the pandemic, there is nothing we can do,” Trusock said.
Court officials said they will continue meeting with the Kent County Health Department every Wednesday to look at case data. They said they will still hold remote hearings when possible.