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Two weeks into a test run, Mass. jury trials go on pause

Joe Raymond wipes down and sanitizes railings in the courtroom after a trial in District Court in Lowell, one of the first jury trials since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic closed courts in March.  (David L Ryan/Globe Staff )
Joe Raymond wipes down and sanitizes railings in the courtroom after a trial in District Court in Lowell, one of the first jury trials since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic closed courts in March. (David L Ryan/Globe Staff )David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

After conducting five jury trials over the last two weeks, Massachusetts trial courts have opted to put the proceedings on hold from Tuesday until Feb. 12, court officials said.

“During the pause, the courts will review and analyze the trials conducted so far,” said Jennifer Donahue, trial court spokeswoman.

Donahue said COVID-19 transmission did not play into the decision to postpone.

“No jurors have reported testing positive for COVID-19,” Donahue said. “We have not received reports of anyone involved in jury trials testing positive.”

Until earlier this month, the Trial Court of Massachusetts hadn’t summoned jurors since the pandemic prompted courthouses to close on March 14, 2020. Court administrators had postponed the return of jury trials more than a half-dozen times.

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The plan had been to hold 27 six-person jury trials on criminal matters pending in District Court and Boston Municipal Court over two months, beginning the week of Jan. 11. If all went well, courts would move forward with 12-person jury trials.

During the test run, the Trial Court held four jury trials, Donahue said. Another trial still was underway Monday in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn, she said.

“The Trial Court wants to assess how these have gone before moving forward,” Donahue said.

The decision on whether to continue to hold trials would be informed by daily reports on infection rates, and consultations with an epidemiologist and other infectious disease specialists, Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula M. Carey has said.


Tonya Alanez can be reached at tonya.alanez@globe.com or 617-929-1579. Follow her on Twitter @talanez.