St. Louis Circuit Court Moves to Phase Two COVID-19 Operations, Sets Jury Trial March 22

Presiding Judge Michael Stelzer of the St. Louis Circuit Court ordered today that the Court will transition immediately to Phase Two Operations from Phase One, as defined in the Operational Directives from the Supreme Court of Missouri last May.

Phase Two allows for jury trials that can “safely be conducted in compliance with social distancing protocols and occupancy rate limitations applicable to the local community.” Judge Stelzer noted that he had consulted with Dr. Fredrick Echols, director of the St. Louis Department of Health, in deciding to move to Phase Two.

Accordingly, the Court has scheduled its first jury trial in more than a year, when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit Missouri.

The trial will be in Case #1822-CR04166-01, State v. Jerome Pimpin Jones, who is charged with first-degree murder, first-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon by firing from a moving vehicle, and three counts of armed criminal action. The charges stem from an incident Nov. 4, 2018.

Among them:

  • The trial courtroom will be open only to jurors and parties to the case.
  • Other observers may view a video feed of the trial from the Ceremonial Courtroom on the fourth floor of the Civil Courts Building. Other viewing rooms may be added as necessary.
  • Jury selection will be conducted in the Jury Assembly Room of the Civil Courts Building rather than in the trial courtroom to allow for safe social distancing.
  • Jury deliberation will be in a designated partner courtroom instead of around a table in a small room.
  • The Court will closely supervise cleaning and disinfecting spaces between each trial session. Deputies and other safety monitors will enforce rules for masking, social distancing, elevator and restroom occupancy and other pandemic-related precautions. Public spaces and high-touch areas will be cleaned frequently.

The court is taking numerous steps to protect the health and safety of prospective jurors and the eventual panel of 12 jurors and two alternates, as well as all parties and observers of this trial and others to follow while the Court remains in Phase Two.

Judge Stelzer said, “We are encouraged to get this area of the judicial process moving again but are proceeding with caution. Advancing through operational phases depends on all of us taking responsibility for our health and that of others as we work to become COVID-free.”