Jury trials to resume at Will County Courthouse

Jury trials continually delayed because of COVID-19 pandemic

The new Will County Courthouse opened for the public in November of 2020.

Jury trials will resume in Will County after they were continually rescheduled for roughly a year in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

On April 5, the 12th Judicial Circuit will resume jury trials and summonses have been issued for that day to prospective jurors, according to a news release from Will County Trial Court Administrator Roger Holland.

Several courtrooms at the new Will County Courthouse in downtown Joliet have been prepared to hold jury trials “consistent with social distancing and facial covering guidelines,” the news release said.

In a statement, Will County Chief Judge Daniel Kennedy said jury trials are “the hallmark of our justice system.”

“It is our hope that by resuming jury trials, we can begin to reduce the backlog of case while ensuring the safety of all concerned,” Kennedy said.

Jury trials in numerous cases were repeatedly delayed in Will County since March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Oct. 1, Rasean Stokes’ attorney, Jeff Tomczak, challenged court orders that left it up to judges to decide whether jury trials could be held based on COVID-19 guidelines and the ability of courthouse staff to conduct a trial.

Tomczak’s request to have a jury trial for Stokes was denied. Stokes’ case ended in February when he agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor after two murder charges were dismissed and other charges were dropped by prosecutors.

Mary Tatroe, Will County State’s Attorney civil division chief, spoke at a Will County committee meeting in October about how the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the work typically done in court.

“We aren’t doing as much work during COVID-19. A lot of those cases, at least on the judicial side, most of the cases are getting sent over to some later date,” Tatroe said.

Tatroe stressed the urgent need to address the backlog and “get justice to these defendants as expeditiously as we possibly can.” She also warned county board members that if the cases aren’t addressed soon, the county might see lawsuits over a lack of due process.

The Will County Courthouse building, 100 W. Jefferson St., Joliet.