New COVID quarantines keeping 38% of inmates out of Fresno County court

Fresno County is averaging 10 times as many new COVID cases every day as it was in April.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022
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A rebound in COVID cases is slowing the wheels of justice again, just as Fresno County prepares to scrap all the adjustments that kept things moving.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A rebound in COVID cases is slowing the wheels of justice all over again, just as Fresno County prepares to scrap all the adjustments that have kept things moving during the pandemic.

66 inmates scheduled for court Monday could not leave the confines of the jail because of COVID or quarantines.

Charged with murdering his own son, William Wright, Sr. wasn't ready to enter a plea last week.

By the time of his rescheduled arraignment Monday, he was stuck in quarantine and couldn't come to court.

RELATED: Arraignment for father accused of killing son in northwest Fresno postponed

"Clearly it puts a delay in the system," says legal analyst Tony Capozzi.

Whatever justice comes from the criminal case will now be delayed for a second and third week.

Wright is one of the 66 inmates who couldn't make the 200-yard move from the jail to the court Monday because of COVID quarantines.

With 38% of defendants absent, courtrooms sat mostly empty and cases became static.

"Attorneys can't get in to see someone who's under quarantine," said Capozzi. "Now if there was a system somehow set up for Zoom hearings where attorneys could at least talk to their clients, that would be helpful."

But Capozzi says the situation is about to get worse.

Fresno County is averaging ten times as many new COVID cases every day as it was in April.

The sheriff's office wouldn't provide more detailed COVID statistics, but a spokesman told us their staff and the private healthcare contractor are well versed in adapting guidelines to keep people safe and keep operations running smoothly.

But as of July 1, this Friday, the county's presiding judge will stop allowing attorneys, defendants, and even judges to appear in court remotely.

"It's just going to clog the courts all the more," Capozzi said. "The courts are clogged now. By discontinuing the Zoom hearings, it's going to make it even worse."

The Fresno County court's media coordinator told Action News the number of positive cases was not a determining factor in the decision to end remote appearances, a decision made at the state level.

Meanwhile, the federal courts extended the use of Zoom for 90 days specifically because of the rising number of COVID cases.