PORT ANGELES — Clallam County Superior and District courts are continuing the suspension of jury trials due to a surge of COVID-19.
Superior Court Judge Brent Badsen on Wednesday suspended all civil and criminal jury trials through Oct. 31 and to resume on Nov. 1. Trials had been put on hold Aug. 27 and were due to resume Sept. 27.
The proceedings put on hold include the trial of Dennis Marvin Bauer, 52, charged with three counts of aggravated first-degree murder and 18 additional charges related to a Dec. 26, 2019, triple homicide in a rural area east of Port Angeles.
The trial, set to begin Sept. 27, was rescheduled Friday for Nov. 8. A status hearing is set for Oct. 14.
Port Angeles lawyer Karen Unger, representing Bauer, had filed a motion Tuesday to continue the trial “until it is safe to proceed” due to a public health emergency.
“It strains credibility to believe that, given the current fifth wave of this pandemic, with more than 43 percent (56.5 percent are fully vaccinated) of Clallam County unvaccinated, that we can safely gather more than 50 people in a room, another 50 people in a room, eventually pick a jury of 12 people and an unknown number of alternates, and have no interference from COVID-19 for six weeks, even if all of the jury pool is vaccinated,” she said during the motion.
“To add to this likelihood of trial interruption, the state’s lead investigator is unvaccinated,” she said.
“Bottom line — the defense does not want to start this trial twice. As much as all parties are committed to getting this matter tried, it is not reasonable, nor safe, to start a six-week trial, bringing in hundreds of jurors, only to have the trial halted midstream.”
Defendants in criminal trials will be rescheduled at their next court date, while civil trial parties must submit an agreed-upon time for a new trial date or appear in court during the next trial-setting date on the court calendar.
“The court finds that the serious danger presented by COVID-19 is good cause to continue criminal trials and constitutes an unavoidable circumstance,” Basden said in the order.
Clallam County District Court 1 in Port Angeles and District Court 2 in Forks also have suspended jury trials.
In District Court, jury trials set for Sept. 1-22 were initially postponed to no sooner than Sept. 29, but on Sept. 20, Judge David Neupert ruled that trials set for Sept. 22-Oct. 20 were to be postponed until Oct. 27.
Finally, in District Court 2, all jury trials have been suspended until Dec. 31 and beginning no sooner than Jan. 2.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected] news.com.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.