State supreme court allows in-person jury trial, which ends with defendant nearly collapsing

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An Ohio judge tried to hold Tuesday what may be the nation’s first in-person jury trial since shutdown orders began. But it ended when the defendant was carried out of the courthouse on a stretcher.

Judge Ronald Forsthoefel of Ashland County, Ohio, wanted to hold the trial, even though the defense and prosecution had agreed to postpone it, report Cleveland.com and Law.com.

The judge was also undeterred by a doctor’s recommendation that the defense lawyer quarantine for 14 days because he had visited a client who tested positive for COVID-19.

During jury selection, the defendant, Seth Whited, began sweating and his face was red, defense lawyer Adam Stone told Cleveland.com. According to Law.com, video of the proceeding showed Whited breathing loudly and appearing to nearly faint. Whited leaned on Stone as he left the courtroom.

Medical staff took Whited’s temperature and discovered that he had a low-grade fever, Stone told Cleveland.com. Whited was taken out of the courthouse on a stretcher and hospitalized.

A COVID-19 test came back negative. Whited was nonetheless advised to quarantine for six days while his symptoms are monitored.

Stone had asked the Ohio Supreme Court to delay Whited’s trial, arguing that it could put everyone in attendance at risk.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled Monday that the trial could proceed under measures proposed by Forsthoefel. The judge planned to require masks for everyone involved in the trial, to seat jurors in the gallery to allow for spacing, and to livestream the trial, Cleveland.com reported.

The court also required Forsthoefel to allow no one in the courtroom who has a temperature of at least 100 degrees or who is otherwise exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. Any jurors who are concerned that participating in the trial would jeopardize their safety should be dismissed, the court said.

Forsthoefel wanted to hold the trial because it had already been postponed three times. He called both Stone and Whited back into court on Wednesday, then agreed to postpone the trial.

Nina Ginsberg, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, told Cleveland.com that her group thinks the jury trial effort was the country’s first since stay-at-home orders were imposed.

Whited has been charged with endangering a child for allegedly injuring his ex-girlfriend’s child. He is also accused of unauthorized use of a computer for allegedly hacking into the ex-girlfriend’s email.

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