Kane County's first trial called 'better than expected'; jurors felt safe

Kane County's first jury trial since the COVID-19 mid-March shutdown was completed this week without any significant complications.

Jurors said they felt safe, according to court officials, although a smaller percentage showed up for duty compared to pre-pandemic averages.

"It went smoother than I expected for it being our first trial," said Judge D.J. Tegeler, who presided over the case of a St. Charles man charged with punching a police officer who was trying to serve a warrant in April 2019.

Jurors were spread out in the audience section in the largest courtroom at the Kane County Judicial Center in St. Charles; the public was not allowed in the room but could watch on a closed-circuit television in another room.

The jury took about 75 minutes of deliberations Tuesday to find Eric E. Ericson, 63, of the 1400 block of South 14th Street, guilty of felony aggravated battery to a peace officer and misdemeanor resisting arrest.

Tegeler revoked bail for Ericson, who acted as his own attorney during the two-day trial. Ericson faces a punishment ranging from probation to up to seven years in prison when sentenced on Sept. 17.

During the trial, Tegeler told witnesses to remove their masks during testimony so jurors could see facial expressions. A bailiff wiped down the witness stand after each person testified and cleaning crews wiped down tables, lecterns and other areas during court recess.

Tegeler said authorities had many meetings before Monday to focus on safety and he spoke to jurors after the trial.

"Everyone felt we did a good job safety-wise," Tegeler said Wednesday. "They thought they were spread out enough (in the seating area), had enough breaks."

Kane County officials also prepared videos to show potential jurors the new safety measures put in place since severely scaling back operations in mid-March.

"On our end, it was a success," said Chief Judge Clint Hull, adding it was a little strange to see jurors in the audience area. "In the end, we had more than enough people to seat a jury."

Before the pandemic, Kane would usually summon about 110 to 115 people for jury duty and would have about eight to 12 no-shows, Court Administrator Doug Naughton said.

Monday, 62 people were summoned and 44 or 45 reported for duty, Naughton said; the no-show percentage of around 28% was slightly higher than the 20% of pre-pandemic levels.

"This was pretty much what we expected. You always have no-shows. A lot of times, people forget," said Naughton, who added those no-shows will be notified by mail that they need to schedule another date for jury duty.

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