Cook County increases testing capacity as COVID-19 eases – NBC Chicago – .

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Cook County increases testing capacity as COVID-19 eases – NBC Chicago – .


Cook County courts set to expand their capacity to hold trials as COVID-19 restrictions relax amid a looming backlog of criminal cases.

Cook County Chief Justice Timothy Evans announced on Friday that 86 courtrooms in the county will become available for trials starting July 23. Evans’ office said 76 of those courtrooms can be used for juries, thanks to reduced social distancing guidelines.

The Leighton Criminal Court Building in downtown Chicago faces a large backlog of criminal cases due to court slowdowns linked to the pandemic. And prosecutors are bracing for what could be a flood of trial demands, once the speedy trial clock starts ticking again on October 1, the Chicago Tribune reported.

But in a press release, Evans said there are currently 159 cases ready for trial and with increased capacity, those trials could be “comfortably” organized by the end of September.

Evans said former criminal court judges who currently preside in other divisions of the court may be called upon to preside over criminal trials.

Until recently, only one jury trial per week took place at the Leighton Criminal Court Building. But in a note recently distributed to Leighton judges, interim president Erica Reddick said up to six juries can be selected per week until July, and up to about 10 per week from August.

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