TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It's said that the wheels of justice turn slowly. That seems to be the case in Florida, where jury trials have been suspended until at least July.
Chief Justice Charles T. Canady issued an emergency order Monday extending the current suspension of jury trials in the state through July 2 because of the coronavirus.
In addition to criminal and civil jury trials, the order also applies to grand jury proceedings and jury selection.
For first-degree murder cases, the new order suspends some requirements for in-person preliminary hearings and a requirement that defendants be automatically released from custody if prosecutors are unable to file charges within 40 days.
The order could further delay the upcoming murder trial of Parkland school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz. His trial, which had been scheduled to begin in January, was delayed until summer to allow defense attorneys more time to prepare.
"In conducting essential proceedings and proceedings critical to the state of emergency or the public health emergency, circuit and county courts shall employ all methods feasible to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure to individuals involved in the proceedings or the general public," Canady wrote in his order.
The order was issued on the same day that all but three Florida counties -- Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade -- began to gradually reopen amid the pandemic. Florida had been under a statewide shutdown since April to help prevent the spread of the virus.