Jury trials, selection may be moved

Options studied due to COVID-19 spacing concerns, Judge McCurdy says

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Canadian County District Judge Jack McCurdy

By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer

EL RENO – September begins the new jury term at the Canadian County District Court.
But with lingering concerns about the spread of COVID-19, some prospective jurors are anxious. There haven’t been jury trials since the spring due to the virus and summer recess.

“At this point in time, we’re going to attempt to conduct some jury trials,” District Judge Jack McCurdy said. “We’ve got a lot of angst and concern from the citizenry when they received their jury notices that they need to appear and serve on a jury.”

Some prospective jurors are concerned about having to sit less than one foot away from other jurors in courtroom jury boxes at the Canadian County Courthouse, 301 N Choctaw.
McCurdy, speaking at Monday morning’s Canadian County Commissioners’ meeting, said other options are being considered for jury selection and trials.

“We’re trying to make arrangements for a different space to conduct those,” the presiding district judge said. “We’ve looked at the juvenile center’s full-size gymnasium as a place where we’d be able to socially distance 35 (prospective) jurors as we conduct jury selection.

“We’ve explored using the new courtroom out at the juvenile center and using the audience area as our jury box. I went out with a tape measure and measured it the other day, and we can socially distance 12 people in that gallery.”

Citing the hesitancy of some jurors to sit so close to each other, McCurdy said he couldn’t say the first jury trial will go as scheduled on Sept. 14.

County Commission Chairman Marc Hader suggested placing Plexiglas-type protective barriers between jurors inside the courtrooms.

But Judge McCurdy pointed out the jury boxes are “so tight and old.”

Two jurors seated next to each other have only about eight inches of space between them, he pointed out.

WHAT ABOUT THOSE MASKS?

Anyone who enters the second floor at the county courthouse is required to wear face masks in courtrooms and hallways.

Judge McCurdy’s current COVID-19 administrative order that sets rules and procedures for the county courthouse will expire Sept. 1.

He announced he would extend the mask requirement for the entire second floor and for the district attorney’s office on the first floor.

However, the mask mandate is being lifted for visitors to the first-floor court clerk’s office.
“In my personal opinion, if they want to wear a mask, they can wear a mask,” Canadian County Court Clerk Marie Hirst said. “If they don’t, they don’t.

“I’m worried because there is information stating that people who are wearing masks all day long are suffering their own kind of illnesses. Some of us can’t breathe wearing a mask. I refuse to wear a mask.”

(Read more in a story in Saturday’s edition of The Yukon Progress)

In other business at Monday’s Canadian County Commissioners’ meeting, the commissioners approved:
• Awarding a $9,895.08 quote from Oklahoma Correctional Industries to reupholster six lobby benches in the court clerk’s office. The court clerk will split the cost with county commissioners to replace the cloth upholstery, which was installed when the courthouse was built 32 years ago.
• A resolution to allow Canadian County District 1 to sell a used John Deere tractor and loader to the City of Piedmont.