Blair County Courthouse makes COVID changes, cancels jury trials

Local News

HOLLIDAYSBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — President Judge Elizabeth A. Doyle announced Friday morning that due to the spike of COVID cases in the area, Blair County jury trials are canceled for the remainder of 2020 along with other changes taking effect.

Jury selections scheduled for November 16-25 have specifically been canceled, according to the release. Other court matters will continue to be primarily heard by remote means and conference calls.

Commissioner Bruce Erb stated, “The Commissioners are taking every step possible to ensure the safety of our employees and the public.”

President judge, Elizabeth Doyle, decided to cancel Blair County jury trials because of positive covid cases in offices the courts work with.

“We are committed to public safety in terms of preventing and prosecuting those people who would prey upon the community and we are concerned of any potential release on inmates pre-trial.” Blair County District Attorney, Peter Weeks said.

Weeks said if a defendant is forced to wait in jail too long before they are brought to trial, they could be released.

Weeks is also concerned because he said if the criminal justice system is frozen more cases will build up without being resolved.

“My office is currently managing cases for 10 defendants who are pending trial for criminal homicide, 4 of those homicide victims lost their lives since the beginning of 2020,” Weeks said.

Weeks is hoping for the court to put a stay or freeze on rule 600. Rule 600 ensures a defendant’s right to a speedy trial.

“We are going to work with the court and the defense bar to identify whether there will be a freeze on rule 600 for the limited period of time the jury trials are not available to the commonwealth,” Weeks said.

President Judge Doyle said although trials aren’t going on they are still doing many things to move cases forward, such as pretrial conferences, pretrial motions, mental health hearings, guilty pleas, and trial by court.

We’re told the majority of other court matters will continue by remote advanced technology and conference calls.

Adult Parole and Probation – Anyone reporting in person MUST wear a mask. Remote reporting or monitoring will continue otherwise. Drug testing will continue at the discretion of the office.

Cost and Fines – No in-person payments will be accepted until further notice. They can be made online through the PAePAY website or through the mail, no cash accepted.

Custody Office – Forms are available on the county website at blairco.org. You may also call or email childcustody@blairco.org with questions.

Domestic Relations – Payments can be made, and complaints can be made online at www.childsupport.state.pa.us or call to request forms by mail. All scheduled proceedings will be held remotely.

Juvenile Probation – Juvenile proceedings will occur remotely. Drug testing will continue at the discretion of the office. For more info, you’re asked to call your probation officer.

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