Above: Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Fermin
In response to the impact of COVID-19, County District Attorney Jason Anderson has sought solutions to ensure criminal cases are heard.
To achieve this, he needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in the courtrooms and provide a safe environment not only for district attorney personnel, victims, and witnesses, but also for defendants and their attorneys as well. Additionally, the safety of court personnel, law enforcement, and the judges was paramount.
Anderson worked to reconcile these concerns while accommodating requirements to maintain social distancing, the transportation of defendants, appearances, and conversations while upholding the constitutional rights of all involved.
The Judicial Council of California and the Chief Justice has called for counties to create solutions to this dilemma.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Michael Fermin spearheaded the project with the help of a team consisting of county employees from the technology, law enforcement, and district attorney’s office. The solution they agreed upon was to hold pre-preliminary hearings via a video conferencing platform.
Though enabling this option required extensive development and testing, the ability to hold court via video between the jails and courtrooms is now enabled.
Now, rather than transporting defendants on a jail bus close to other inmates and sheriff’s deputies, they are escorted to a room, where they attend their court hearings via video. All parties to the court hearing, such as the defense and prosecuting attorneys, and the judge, are on video as well.
“It is of the highest importance that the people of San Bernardino County have confidence knowing that their judicial system continues to safeguard the rights of all parties to a case. Due process and public safety are bedrock fundamentals that can never be sacrificed,” said Anderson.