Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County Postpones Jury Trials, Students Take Classes Remotely

By Michael Sakal
Michael Sakal
Michael Sakal
Michael Sakal is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Ohio.
January 5, 2022 Updated: January 6, 2022

Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas judges have voted to postpone all jury trials for at least one month because of the high numbers of COVID-19 cases in the county, the court has announced.

The decision comes as cases of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus continue to remain at record levels throughout the state, marking the second time that the county courts have delayed jury trials during the pandemic.

Jury trials are slated to resume on Feb. 4, but all other aspects of the court are to continue operating.

“We took this proactive step for the safety of the public, our staff, and those who appear before us,” Administrative and Presiding Judge Brendan Sheehan, a Democrat, said in a court-issued statement.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, this court has led the state in making difficult decisions to protect the public health. We will continue to monitor the number of COVID cases in Cuyahoga County.”

On Jan. 3, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said 6,177 people had been hospitalized because of COVID-19, the largest number of cases since the beginning of the pandemic. DeWine also announced the expansion COVID-19 testing sites throughout the state and the mobilization of 300 more members of the Ohio National Guard to assist at them.

In late December 2021, DeWine deployed 1,050 guard members to assist hospitals. That number is now up to 2,300, according to information from the governor’s office.

“Maintaining up-to-date vaccination remains the best tool against COVID-19 hospitalization and death,” DeWine said in a statement.

“As Ohio is experiencing record-setting hospitalizations amid the spread of the Delta and Omicron variants, it’s critical that Ohioans follow prevention strategies including getting vaccinated, getting a booster shot if eligible, wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, getting tested, and staying home if sick, even if symptoms are mild.”

Early on during the pandemic, a number of trials and court proceedings were postponed, mostly throughout 2020, and some didn’t resume until mid-2021. When they did, they were moved to other buildings in downtown Cleveland, where masks and social distancing were required.

One of the high-profile cases that had been postponed for nearly two years was the murder trial of Tevin Biles-Thomas, the brother of Olympian gymnast Simone Biles.

Biles-Thomas was on trial facing multiple counts of murder, voluntary manslaughter, felonious assault, and perjury in connection with the deaths of three men following a disturbance at a pizzeria on the city’s west side during a New Year’s Eve Party in 2018.

The jury selection pool started in May 2021, but the first trial resulted in a mistrial when legal briefs were shared with the jury.

In June 2021, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Joan Synenberg, a Republican, ruled that prosecutors didn’t present enough evidence to sustain a conviction against Biles-Thomas.

Most recently, two people have been charged in connection to the New Year’s Eve shooting death of Cleveland police officer Shane Bartek, 25, on Dec. 31, 2021.

Tamara Unique McLoyd, 18, has been charged with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.

Video surveillance at an apartment complex on Rocky River Drive on Cleveland’s West Side shows that Bartek was approached by someone armed with a gun at about 6 p.m.

Bartek tried to get the weapon away from the attacker, but was shot twice in the back. A two-year member of the department stationed at its 5th District, Bartek later was pronounced dead at nearby Fairview Hospital, according to Cleveland police.

Anthony Butler Jr., the second suspect, is currently jailed on a $5 million bond, as he was charged with fleeing and eluding, a third-degree felony, and receiving stolen property, a fourth-degree felony, police said.

However, a timeframe for the jury selection in the case isn’t known at this time.

Grand jury hearings are private and no indictments have been handed down, a spokesperson from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office told The Epoch Times on Dec. 5, 2021. A total number of jury trials that currently are underway in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas also isn’t known at this time.

Darren Toms, the public information officer and community outreach coordinator for the court, couldn’t be reached comment.

Other shutdowns are currently in place in Cleveland because of the high numbers of COVID-19 cases in the area.

Students in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) went remote this week, the first week back to classes following the Christmas and holiday break.

The CMSD plans for students and staff to return to the schools on Jan. 10.

Michael Sakal is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Ohio.