Jury trials suspended again in Kenai

Jul 28, 2021

Credit Sabine Poux/KDLL

Jury trials have again been suspended in the Kenai and Homer courts, due to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

The order comes just three months after the courts restarted jury trials. Before that, they were put on hold for a year amid concerns about bringing jurors into the courtroom during the pandemic.

Now, case counts are climbing again in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. William Morse, the presiding judge for the judicial district that includes Kenai and Homer, ordered a suspension until at least Aug. 6.

Kenai District Court Judge Martin Fallon said the suspension of trials impacts a small portion of the court’s proceedings. Most criminal cases are resolved without trial.

“We’re able to do absolutely everything else," he said. "Probably 2 or 3 percent of our hearings are jury trials. Maybe even less than that. It’s a really small number.”

Still, there is a backlog of cases that has built up since the pandemic started. And the court hasn’t been able to hold those trials virtually, due to questions about whether that would be constitutional.

Fallon said the court was able to make some progress on the backlog in the last several months.

“It was very helpful to get back to trials," he said.

Morse will review the suspension in early August.