ANDERSON — Madison County’s first jury trial in almost a year is scheduled for March 15.

The Indiana Supreme Court suspended jury trials last year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and in December the court extended the delay until Monday.

As of Feb. 1, 134 people were awaiting trial in the Madison County courts and 21 in the three city and town courts.

The Madison County Health Department has approved the use of the Madison Circuit Court Division 4 courtroom for trials on the third floor of the Madison County Government Center.

Madison County eyed the Flagship Center as an alternative location for jury trials last year but logistics made this impractical, according to Chief Judge David Happe.

Locally, the Madison County judges have extended the emergency order until March 14, as steps are still underway to safely resume jury trials.

“While pandemic conditions are improving in Madison County, social distancing and heightened sanitation protocols are still necessary to conduct a safe trial for jurors,” Madison Circuit Court Judge Angela Warner Sims said. “In order to resume conducting jury trials safely, jury selection for major felony cases will take place at the Anderson City Court in order to provide a larger space for safety and spacing.”

Prospective jurors will be asked to do a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention self-checker before reporting and watch the required jury orientation video, which is located on the county’s website.

“The trials themselves will take place at the courthouse in a designated courtroom that has been modified to allow for social distancing,” Sims said. “Trials for non-major felony cases will take place at the courthouse for both jury selection and the trial since fewer jurors are required for those cases. Therefore, it will be very important if you receive a summons to appear as a prospective juror that you read your summons carefully and note which location you are being ordered to appear.”

Any questions should be directed to Madison County Court Administration at 765-641-9504.

“The Madison Circuit Court is taking exhaustive steps to protect the health and safety of jurors during the COVID-19 pandemic by engaging medical experts in planning specific to jury service, and by following the directions of state, local and national health officials,” Sims said.

Local steps include requiring the wearing of masks by all potential jurors, participants, and judiciary staff; acquisition of other personal protective equipment (PPE) and installation of Plexiglas inside court spaces; social distancing to include jurors meeting in much larger spaces or in separate rooms, etc.; and jury selection for major cases located in a larger than normal venue where appropriate social distancing can be maintained. Health protocols will be administered to all potential jurors and participants.

Jurors called for selection will be staggered at intervals to permit proper social distancing and minimize crowd size.

“We cannot, unfortunately, guarantee that no virus transmission could take place during a trial,” Sims said. “Having said that, jury service will look much different going forward as we are proceeding with numerous safety precautions, such as smaller groups meeting in larger spaces, diligent use of protective equipment, fewer trials being conducted simultaneously and many more.”

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.