Bronx’s first criminal trial in 9 months canceled after four court staffers become infected with COVID

Molly Crane-Newman and Stephen Rex Brown, New York Daily News
·2 min read

Four recent coronavirus cases resulted in the cancellation of the first criminal trial held in the Bronx since mid-March, state court officials said Thursday.

Three court officers and an interpreter who work at the Bronx Hall of Justice and Bronx County Civil Court tested positive for the virus this week, prompting the Office of Court Administration to halt a murder trial slated to start Wednesday.

State courts spokesman Lucian Chalfen said officials will take all necessary safety precautions but do not believe the infected court employees interacted with one another.

Chalfen said the COVID-19 cases were “unrelated disparate reports that have nothing to do with the buildings.”

An alert on OCA’s website indicated one of the people who tested positive had last been at the courthouse on Wednesday.

“Cleaning protocols are being followed at the courthouse; notifications are ongoing,” the notification read.

The city’s courts commenced in-person criminal jury trials on Oct. 26 in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island for the first time since mid-March. The Bronx and Queens are to resume trials this week.

About 4,600 New Yorkers have been summoned for jury duty since in-person proceedings presumed. OCA said each of the boroughs will only hold one criminal trial at a time.

In early October, a safety consultants' report commissioned by 10 of the city’s legal defender services found the city’s courts were ill-equipped to prevent coronavirus spread.

The report published by CrowdRx, which assesses safety in facilities that draw big groups of people, found courtrooms and prisoner holding areas posed “an unacceptably high-risk” of acquiring the coronavirus “due to the number of people who congregate in close proximity.”

Rumors circulated that the Bronx courthouses might be closed outright.

“My impression is that they’re going to shut down now and they’re suspended for two weeks effective tomorrow,” said Jared Trujillo, President of the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys.

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