Minnesota Supreme Court chambers (Photo: Kevin Featherly)
Pilot involves allowing ‘certain audio and video evidence’ in jury rooms
The Minnesota Supreme Court has extended a Hennepin County criminal-trial pilot project meant to test the feasibility and effect of allowing “certain audio and video evidence” into jury rooms.
The project, authorized for Minnesota’s 4th Judicial District back on Jan. 8, 2020, needs to be extended, the order indicates, because the COVID-19 peacetime emergency has gotten in the way.
As the court’s June 4 order says:
“Although some criminal jury trials have been held since that time, the practical impact of the peacetime emergency on the pilot project has been to limit the opportunity for a robust pilot project, and in tum, limit the available data to evaluate and survey for the committee’s report. Thus, an extension of the pilot project is necessary.”
The Supreme Court’s Advisory Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure, which is responsible for the project, was scheduled to file a status report by July 31, 2021. That report was to contain recommendations on whether to continue, expand or halt the pilot. The committee also was directed to survey pilot participants.
But just a few months after it was green-lighted, the pandemic hit. With the governor’s emergency declaration of March 12, 2020, Judicial Branch proceedings, including criminal jury trials, were brought to a near complete.
Court proceedings have started moving again, but not quickly enough to hold to the original pilot schedule. So the June 4 order, signed by Chief Justice Lorie Gildea, gives the committee another year to file its report. The new deadline is July 31, 2022.
Other provisions in the 2020 order governing the pilot project remain in effect and will continue to apply, the order says.