Court Battles

Judge rules jurors can still serve in criminal trial regardless of vaccination status

A Pennsylvania judge on Friday ruled that jurors could still serve on a criminal trial regardless of their coronavirus vaccination status, The Associated Press reported.

Prosecutors had sought to keep unvaccinated jurors or those who had not yet received a booster shot from being able to serve, arguing that they want to avoid people having to quarantine if they were exposed by other jurors and noting they wanted to keep those involved in the trial safe, the news outlet noted.

The prosecutors also argued that those types of jurors “come from a broad spectrum of races, ethnicities, and political beliefs, and have, at most, a ‘shared attitude,’” saying they were therefore not a “distinctive group,” the AP reported.

The decision affects a criminal trial slated to start next week against Michael Pritchett and Dion Oliver for their alleged involvement in a 2017 incident that left a girlfriend kidnapped and murdered and a 6-year-old permanently disabled, according to the news wire. 

But Judge Joshua Wolson argued against such a measure, saying that federal law protects people from being disqualified from serving on a jury and that the Constitution also protects against intrusions on freedoms.

“While it is easy to invoke the trope of ‘health’ to justify intrusions on liberty, such as limits on jury trials or the eligible members of a jury pool, the Supreme Court has indicated that the Constitution provides a bulwark against those intrusions,” the judge wrote his ruling, the AP reported.

“For other proposed limits on the jury pool, courts, lawyers, and social scientists can draw on their experience to make reasonable conclusions about the effect of a proposed change,” he noted later in his ruling, according to the AP. “But when it comes to this pandemic, and the way rules might ripple through society, everyone is flying blind.”

The Hill has reached out to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for comment.

Court Battles