BENNINGTON — Because of a pending airflow evaluation and ongoing shift to a new case management system, the Bennington Superior criminal court cannot hold jury trials till the beginning of 2021, at the earliest.
Jury trials statewide were suspended in March as part of the Vermont judiciary’s effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Bennington criminal courthouse is currently waiting for state engineers to evaluate the safety of its airflow, Chief Superior Judge Brian Grearson said Thursday.
Before restarting jury trials, among the recommendations of a judiciary committee back in July was to ensure maximal airflow within courthouse buildings. It cited a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention article that proposed increasing total airflow supply to occupied spaces in order to promote a safe and healthy workspace.
The Bennington courthouse staff, Grearson said, is also in the process of transitioning to a new case management system. Doing this work — which includes converting thousands of pages of court documents into electronic files — while ensuring safe jury trials was “believed to be too burdensome until the transition is complete,” he said in an email.
On Tuesday, the state court administrator’s office announced that criminal jury trials would resume before yearend with an initial case in Windham County Superior Court in Brattleboro. The case will be tried has yet to be determined. Jury selection is scheduled for Dec. 7.
Which month Bennington County’s own trials will restart is still unknown. The projection of early 2021 assumes that the courthouse’s airflow evaluation produces successful results, Grearson said.
“A more definite date will depend on the court addressing the other issues identified in the Supreme Court Jury Restart Committee report and lessons learned from the first jury trial to take place in Windham County in December,” he said.
Other problems identified in the report include inadequate cleaning and court understaffing.
Jury trials in civil cases statewide won’t resume till next year, the judiciary earlier announced.