Criminal jury trials in Idaho’s 2nd District will continue to be put on hold because of the COVID-19 threat in the region.

Criminal jury trials will not be held through Nov. 27, according to a new order issued Friday by 2nd District Administrative Judge Jay Gaskill.

No trials were scheduled to occur over the coming span in Clearwater, Idaho, Latah, Lewis and Nez Perce counties, Gaskill said. Criminal jury trials, which were resumed in the state Sept. 14 after the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic shut them down in March, are a constitutional right for defendants under the Sixth Amendment.

There have been three jury trials that have had to be rescheduled in the district since the temporary orders have been beginning in late September. One trial in Latah County and two trials in Idaho County were suspended, 2nd Judicial District Trial Court Administrator Roland Gammill said.

The retrial of Pompeyo Salazar-Cabrera, postponed last month because of COVID-19, has since been reset for Feb. 8-12 in Latah County with Senior Judge Gregory Kalbfleisch presiding. Salazar-Cabrera, of Carson, Calif., is charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in a crash that killed Hayden Garrett, 19, of Clarkston, on March 31, 2018. Prosecutors say he drove recklessly down the Lewiston Hill and failed to stop at the intersection with State Route 128 and crashed into Garrett’s car.

Salazar-Cabrera was convicted of vehicular manslaughter by a Nez Perce County jury in October 2019, but 1st District Senior Judge Fred Gibler, of Kootenai County, agreed with Jonathan Hally, Salazar-Cabrera’s attorney, that a typo in the Idaho Criminal Jury Instructions should have said “carelessly and heedlessly” instead of “carelessly or heedlessly.”

The Idaho Supreme Court issued an order Sept. 10 allowing criminal jury trials to proceed after Sept. 14, while civil jury trials could proceed Dec. 1. The order requires the administrative judge to review COVID-19 cases by county each week to determine if criminal jury trials may proceed.

Gaskill began reworking the administrative orders to cover more than one week late last month.

“We did this because it was a waste of time and resources to have the clerks, judges, attorneys, jury commissioners, witnesses, etc., preparing all week for a Monday trial just to have it vacated on the Friday before,” Gaskill said.

The Idaho Supreme Court worked with public health districts to develop a matrix of statistics based on population and the new virus cases. Gaskill and Gammill receive a report from the Idaho Supreme Court that incorporates statistics posted on the state’s COVID-19 website to guide the decision on whether to hold jury trials in the counties.

Wells may be contacted at mwells@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2275.

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