GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Starting Monday, prospective jurors will arrive at courthouses for the first time since March as Guilford County prepares to restart jury trials.
Court administrators said ensuring juror safety is a top priority as they face many challenges amid a global pandemic.
“Obviously, jurors are concerned,” said Amanda Leazer, Guilford County Trial Court Administrator.
Beyond the expected mask-wearing and social distancing, Guilford County courts have installed a new thermal imaging system to measure the body temperature of every person entering the building in Greensboro and High Point.
Guilford County has contracted with the Cumberland Group to install an Intellisite camera system at entrances to the courthouses. Each system consists of a dual-lens optical and thermal camera, a “black box” that provides the thermal camera with a constant reference temperature, and a computer system that uses software to detect the ideal spots on a person’s face to measure. As people walk through the camera’s path, a nearby monitor shows the person’s temperature above their face in real time.
This is supposed to be faster and less invasive than individual thermometer temperature checks.
Guilford County Security staff will intervene if anyone over 99.5 degrees enters the building.
Security stations at the courthouse entrances still dispense hand sanitizer, check for face coverings and ask each person questions about Covid-19 exposure and symptoms.
Senior Resident Judge John O. Craig, III said one of the biggest challenges has been finding rooms large enough for dozens of perspective jurors to gather before they are winnowed down to a specific panel for a trial.
But the courts have figured out a system.
Jurors will have a new dedicated entrance into the courthouse which is separate from the public. New additional jury space has been created and state-of-the-art audio/video has been added to allow for social distancing as well as communication between judges and jurors.
Once inside courtrooms, the jury panels won’t all squeeze into typical “jury boxes.” Some judges will place jurors in the box and space around the jury box. Protective plexiglass panels have been put up throughout the courtrooms.
Lawyers will sit at partitioned tables. Judges and witnesses will be similarly shielded.