YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – There is some new equipment inside Mahoning County’s 100-year-old courthouse downtown. It’s there to protect those who go or work there from catching COVID-19.
A maze of Lexan and plastic poles is just part of the new normal inside the Mahoning County Courthouse.
Tuesday morning, the first hearings were held in Judge John Durkin’s court since the new partitions were installed.
“We want to prevent the spread of COVID-19, not only to our employees but to the users of the court,” Judge Durkin said.
In addition to the barriers, which can be moved from one courtroom to another as needed, new microphones and other electronics will be installed so jurors can see and hear testimonies no matter where they’re seated. For the time being, only four will be permitted in the actual jury box.
“We put the barriers in the back because we’re going to have the balance of the jurors,” Judge Durkin said.
Because of the changes, spectators will watch remotely from other rooms.
“That way, we’ll have the courtroom not only serve for the jurors’ purpose during the trial, but we’ll utilize the courtroom for jury deliberations once the case goes to the jury,” Judge Durkin said.
The county spent about $10,000 on the new equipment, mostly covered by a grant from the Ohio Supreme Court.
Still, the judge admits he and his colleagues may need to swap courtrooms if one is too small to handle a jury with proper distancing.
“This is very fluid, and what we plan today may very well change not only by tomorrow but by the afternoon,” Judge Durkin said.
At this point, Judge Durkin is expected to preside over the county’s first jury trial since the pandemic began, on July 20.