Jury trials resume in Polk County with a COVID twist

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POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Defendants are back on trial in Polk County.

For the first time since March, trials resumed in the county last week.

“The jury system is the cornerstone of our system of justice. Our system of justice says everyone has the right and opportunity to a trial by jury,” said Stacy Butterfield, Clerk of the Circuit Court.

However, signs of the pandemic era we live in are everywhere at the Bartow courthouse.

All courthouse visitors are screened. They have their temperature checks.

“Everyone, the judge, the courtroom clerks, the defendants, they have on a mask,” said Butterfield.

Hand sanitizer stations are scattered across the facility, as are signs reminding people to social distance.

Potential jurors can complete their questionnaires online and get a QR code to scan on site for check-in, a touch-free option.

Tablets have been installed for jurors who did not have access to the mobile check-in process.

Jurors are kept at a distance in the jury assembly room and in the courtroom.

“It’s very important that people have their day in court and it is a sign of being able to move forward, while adapting, we are able to do some normal in-person activities such as jury trials with the appropriate protocols,” said Butterfield.

All trials are being streamed online.

Court employees were furloughed this summer but it was lifted on Sept. 30, Butterfield said.

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