LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Courthouses across Louisiana are now able to hold jury trials for the first time in over a year. 15th Judicial District Attorney Don Landry says jury trials in Lafayette, Vermilion, and Acadia Parishes are starting Monday, after being postponed at least twice due to covid.
“It feels good that we’re finally being able to move,” Landry expressed.
His prosecutors are anxious to begin jury trials after waiting for the Louisiana Supreme Court to allow its moratorium on cases to expire. Without juries, some of the most serious crimes have evaded justice.
Landry said they include, “First-degree murder, second-degree murder, manslaughter, aggravated batteries, theft charges, forgery charges, computer solicitation charges. Just a whole gambit of charges that require a jury.”
But on Thursday, April 1, the temporary ban on jury trials was lifted, and District Attorney Landry said plea deals are now pouring in from accused criminals.
“Now, the defendants know that jury trials are coming,” Landry remarked. “They going to take into consideration the offers that may have been made to them to try and resolve their case without a trial.”
For those that don’t plead guilty, public help is needed. Jurors in groups of six or twelve reentering the courtroom will adapt to the times, using audience space to keep six feet apart and plexiglass dividers to separate judges from witnesses. Extra cleaning and mask-wearing done in court proceedings without jurors will also continue.
Landry added the increased availability of the vaccine has given him confidence in getting jurors to conduct these trials in Acadiana and across the state.
“I feel real comfortable that we’ll be able to keep the jurors safe, so if you are called to duty, we hope you’ll serve because you are a very important part when it comes to this process. In fact, you are the most important part when it comes to this process,” Landry concluded.