In-person jury trials resume in Hillsborough County

Hillsborough County

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Hillsborough County resumed in-person jury trials on Monday.

Jury selection began for the trial of 20-year-old Erin Lee Robinson, who is accused of killing a man for looking at his girlfriend outside of a Wimauma convenience store in 2014.

The trial isn’t particularly notable on a national level, but Court TV was there to carry the proceedings to a nationwide audience.

The reason, according to a Court TV employee, is that it’s one of the few in-person jury trials going on in the country right now.

Hillsborough County Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta says a number of changes have been put into place to protect potential jurors and court personnel.

“It’s not going to be a panel of 50 jurors sitting packed into a courtroom, it’s going to be 15 to 20 jurors at a time in the room, all socially distanced, everyone with a face covering on,” Ficarrotta said.

Everyone in court will be wearing face coverings or face shields.

Ficarrotta says before the pandemic hit, the county would issue summons to more than 300 potential jurors and select them for various trials. Now, the pool of potential jurors will be much smaller but called more frequently.

“Now we are going to selecting jurors every day of the week, Monday through Friday. We are bringing in smaller panels. One at 7:30 in the morning, one at 10:30 in the morning. Starting next week it will be 7:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and I think 1:00 p.m.,” Ficarrotta said.

He added it will be more important than ever for potential jurors to come to court when they are called.

“The right to a jury trial is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. It’s part of our constitution and while we’ve had cases here and we’ve been working, the judges are here working and the lawyers are here working that one aspect, that right to jury trial, we could not do,” the judge said.

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