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Coronavirus Courtroom Changes: Hearings Held Over Zoom

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Coronavirus is changing the world as we know it, including the inside of our courtrooms.

Inside of Sacramento superior courtrooms, cleanliness is the new rule of law and hearings are being conducted remotely through the interactive video conferencing app Zoom.

Each day defendants appear inside of an almost empty courtroom with district attorneys working from home and the judge in a separate courtroom. Those present at the hearing must wear masks and disinfecting the courtroom has also become ritual.

"The courtroom bailiffs appear to be wiping down between each defendant they're wiping down the entire area," said Steve Grippi, the Chief Deputy, for the Sacramento County District Attorney.

Proceedings are mostly limited to arraignments and non-jury trials. Which Sacramento defense attorney Mark Reichel says will eventually be a problem.

"Individuals in jail are going to say 'I'm not agreeing to this time exclusion. I want my day in court.' The courts are going to say 'We can't bring a jury in here and they're going to entertain motions to dismiss the case,'" Reichel said.

The district attorney's office admits if jury selection isn't possible, defendants awaiting trial in custody will have to be set free.

The Zoom meetings, regular cleanings, and limited hearings are sustainable for now, but it's unclear how long it will work before the problem gets bigger.

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