Southern California’s first Zoom jury trial concludes in San Bernardino

iStock/Getty Images
Photo credit iStock/Getty Images

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (KNX) — Closing arguments began Monday in a precedent-setting trial in San Bernardino County Superior Court.

In the case of a group of Yucaipa women against biotech megacorporation Monsanto ground to a halt in August after several attorneys, two court staffers, and a juror all tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks into trial.

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That’s when plaintiff’s attorney Paul R. Kiesel suggested the trial be conducted remotely, via Zoom. Judge Gilbert G. Ochoa agreed.

Jurors were provided with Chromebook laptops to view testimony and exhibits from home. An Altadena-based trial visual-aid company MotionLit Services,Inc., provided the Zoom software and formatted exhibits to be presented electronically.

If adopted widely, the format would make jury service substantially easier to perform. Jurors would not have to arrange transportation to and from courthouses, for example.

But it’s not a system without flaws. In the Monsanto case, some jurors lost internet connections, which would halt proceedings until they could be reconnected. Another juror had bandwidth issues and had to go into court anyway to use its wireless internet connection.

“This is really the new way I see trials happening,” Vache Garabedian, who co-founded MotionLit in 2013 with his brother, Vahe, told The San Bernardino Sun. “The advantages outweigh the disadvantages.”

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