In an extension of a suspension of jury trials slated to end Tuesday, Fourth Judicial District Chief Judge William Bain issued another order Thursday calling off trials through Jan. 28 due to sustained local COVID-19 case rates.
Bain wrote in the order, handed down Thursday afternoon, that the Fourth Judicial District’s courts “are still not able to safely assemble jurors” based on the “continuing rise” in COVID-19 incidence and positivity rates in both El Paso and Teller counties, and ordered all jury calls for trials suspended through Jan. 28.
He included in the order Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data over the past two weeks showing an incidence rate, or the number of new cases per 100,000 people, of over 2,740 in El Paso County, and an incidence rate of over 1,303 in Teller County.
In last week’s order, he cited a two-week incidence rate in El Paso County of 806 new cases per 100,000 people, and 375 for Teller County.
Bain also noted in the order that according to state health department data, “only 69.3% of the population age 18+ have been fully vaccinated and in Teller County, only 60.8% have.”
In an interview last week, Bain said he’d previously refrained from suspending trials through Jan. 28 based on the omicron variant’s typical “massive and immediate surge in cases followed by a rapid deceleration.”
He added he planned to “reassess the situation” again this week, around 10 days from when the order was issued on Jan. 3, and that it was possible the suspension would be extended.
The first order, scheduled through Friday, fed into the three-day weekend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which Bain said meant trials would resume Jan. 18.
Several other judicial districts, after issuing similar orders in the first week of January, are slated to resume jury trials Jan. 28, including the 18th Judicial District covering Arapahoe, Douglas, Elbert and Lincoln counties, the 20th Judicial District covering Boulder County, and the Second Judicial District covering Denver County.
The extended suspension in the Fourth Judicial District is likely to contribute to a backlog of trials caused by previous pandemic trial suspensions the judicial district had slowly whittled down from as many as 5,000, Bain said.
El Paso County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deborah Mynatt said in an interview last week the suspension of trials typically also creates a backlog of people awaiting trial at the El Paso County jail.