COVID outbreak halts inmates going to court in Topeka


TOPEKA (KSNT) – An outbreak of COVID-19 in the Shawnee County Jail is now stopping inmates from going to court for in-person appearances for all proceedings besides jury trials, according to an administrator with the district court.

3rd Judicial District Court Chief Judge Richard Anderson made the order because of the “immediate health risk” at the jail, where three areas of the building are facing a COVID-19 outbreak.

“Jury trials for inmates may proceed under certain conditions. The order does not cover any case or anyone who is not in custody at the Jail … An effort is being made to reasonably and safely move forward with our criminal processes.”

Lea Dawn Welch, Court Administrator

The new order will take effect until Oct. 1. All hearings scheduled during the suspension will take place by video appearance, so long as the judge and the person standing trial agree. However, for anyone facing a felony jury trial, the chief judge’s order says they can still have in-person proceedings so long as the following conditions are met.

  • The defendant and judge agree to proceed on the date and time as scheduled.
  • The Shawnee County Department of Corrections confirms the inmate tested negative for COVID-19.
  • The SCDOC must keep testing the inmate during the course of the trial every other day, and the inmate must keep testing negative.
  • The inmate on trial must be kep separated from the general population at the jail.
  • Everyone must comply with any other safety protocols added by the judge.

The order affects only people held in custody by the Shawnee County Department of Corrections.

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