Osceola, Mecosta county judges look for new jury selection site

Ferris’ Williams Auditorium no longer available

Osceola and Mecosta County circuit court judges are looking at establishing an off-site jury selection location in Reed City.

In a letter to Mecosta County administrator Paul Bullock, 49th Circuit Judge Scott Hill-Kennedy requested approval of funding for a For The Record recording system to be used at the location.

“We have identified a facility in Reed City where we could conduct jury picks,” Hill-Kennedy stated in the letter. “We would like to make this work for both Osceola and Mecosta county. The primary matter to address is recording equipment.”

This past summer, Williams Auditorium, located on Ferris State University’s campus, was set up as an off-site jury selection location due to capacity limitations set by the COVID-19 pandemic safety recommendations. Bullock said the facility is no longer available for use by the courts.

Hill-Kennedy said the recording system used at Williams Auditorium was borrowed from the Osceola County Probate Court and is no longer available, as well.

“We are exploring purchasing an FTR recording system that could be left in the Reed City jury pick venue until we get back to a more typical jury pick routine and thereafter use it as backup for our current systems and as needed for future off-site court business,” Hill-Kennedy said.

Bullock said the other courts — district, probate and family — can carry out the necessary functions in the normal manner, but the circuit court cannot. Therefore, they are looking at an off-site remote location “as required during the pandemic.”

Mecosta County District Judge Pete Jaklevic previously said district and probate court trials are much smaller in scale and can be conducted at the courthouse while still complying with the CDC safety guidelines.

With felony cases bringing in over 100 prospective jurors, the circuit court rooms are too small to accommodate that many under the CDC guidelines restricting capacity and spacing, he said.

Bullock said the proposal is for the expenditure to be shared between Mecosta and Osceola counties, but one has to spend the money and get reimbursed by the other.

“The courts have come to us to ask for approval of the expenditure,” Bullock said.

The board approved an expenditure of up to $10,000 for the recording equipment, if deemed necessary to establish the off-site jury selection site.

The location of the off-site facility has not yet been determined.