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Douglas County Courthouse to hold first jury trial since pandemic outbreak

Published: Jul. 13, 2020 at 4:56 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - The justice system hit the brakes hard during this pandemic. Judges delayed trial after trial -- over safety concerns for all involved.

Douglas County is preparing for its first major step back to normal and business as usual. This week, courthouse staff are preparing for the first criminal jury trial in four months.

On July 15 jury selection will begin for the murder case of Nyir Kuek who is accused of killing two men last summer at 69th Street and Northridge Drive.

Because of COVID-19, there will be a number of changes -- especially when it comes to jurors and the public.

Eighty jurors at a time will socially distance at the legislative chambers during jury selection.

They’ll be asked to wear masks, as well.

Douglas County Clerk of District Court Chief Deputy Jane Alexander addressed concerns potential jurors may have.

“We’ve had many jurors contact us and they want to know if they will have to wear a mask and if there will be social distancing, and yes -- we are doing both,” she said. “And anyone who may have fears, we ask them to contact us. We’ll talk about it and hopefully, we can ease those fears and they can come and be a juror.”

Seating in the courtroom has been drastically reduced because of the coronavirus. There will be space for eight people reserved for the family of the victims, the defendant, and members of the media.

Courtroom staff understand there is no playbook for this situation and are prepared to be flexible.

Because of the unknown challenges ahead, the jury will have four alternate jurors instead of the usual two as backups.

The Douglas County Clerk of Court sent out 350 jury summons which is 20 percent more than the usual number sent out for a murder trial.

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