Prospective juror bails over mask concerns

Jury commissioner weighs in on COVID protocols, duty, and the return to jury trials.

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A prospective juror left jury duty prematurely Sept. 20 because a fellow member of the jury pool wouldn’t wear a mask. — Rich Saltzberg

A prospective juror walked out of the Dukes County Courthouse in Edgartown without being officially released after she allegedly witnessed a fellow member of the jury pool refuse to don a mask in close quarters with other prospective jurors. 

The incident took place on Monday, Sept. 20, when three separate courts — juvenile, district, and superior — conducted simultaneous business in the courthouse and when jury trials got underway for the first time since the advent of the pandemic. Due to so much going on at the courthouse, the prospective jurors were sent to the smaller, cellar courtroom of the courthouse, according to Superior Court Clerk George Davis, who stressed the court’s foremost goal is to ensure the wellbeing of those in the courthouse. 

“We were very busy on Monday,” Davis said. “In fact, as busy as we ever are. So we had superior court in session, we had district court in session, and we had juvenile court in session … So three trial courts conducting business in a building that’s designed to really accommodate one or two at most.”

The prospective juror who left the building was Chilmark resident Valerie Sonnenthal. Sonnenthal, who is a Times columnist, said the room the prospective jurors were put in in the courthouse was “supposed to be a safe place,” but everyone was closer than six feet apart and there was a maskless man present.

On Monday, Sonnenthal showed up for jury duty, and recalled observing signs for masks before she was through courthouse security. A court officer eventually led her into a “large room” in the courthouse cellar, she recalled, with windows and clear plastic dividers to separate staff. A court official was behind the desk as she entered, she recalled, and that official began to conduct juror clerical work shortly after her arrival. 

“We just waited for a while,” Sonnenthal said. “So I’m sitting in the second row, and the room’s got 15 people, I guess…”

Sonnenthal said she recalled a man came in wearing a bandana over his face. “After he sits down, he removed his bandana,” she said. 

Sonnenthal said she waited to see if the man was taking a drink or something of that nature. 

He “just keeps it off,” she said. “I get up and move as far away from him as I can, which happens to be the seat by the door …”

A court official explained a 17-minute video about juror service was about to take place, she recalled. As that official exited the room, Sonnenthal alleges she asked the official if they would tell the man to wear his mask (bandana). Sonnenthal alleges the official said no, and left. 

“Here’s somebody in noncompliance and nobody is saying anything,” Sonnenthal said.

She went on to say, “Somebody came back in and turned it off. Then the court officer came in and said the judge would be down in a while to talk to us. We sit longer and wait.” She recalled when the judge came in, the man pulled up his bandana. The judge outlined the prospective jurors’ responsibilities and told them they would have an hour break, she recalled. When they returned, the judge would let the prospective jurors know if things were moving forward. Sonnenthal said the judge departed and a court officer handed out some paperwork.

She alleges when the court officer handed paperwork to the maskless man, he “looked straight down at the floor — he never looked at him.”

She went on to say, “So nobody has said anything to this man” about not complying with the mask order. 

The prospective jurors were let out at about 10:30 am, she recalled, and were expected to return at about 11:30 am. 

After reaching out for advice from a friend during the break, Sonnenthal said she received a recommendation “that I write a letter to the judge after I explained that I had now been in a room for 75 minutes with no windows open, with the air conditioner set to 68, and with someone without a mask — and since this is an honor system and this person doesn’t even have a mask, it’s hard for me to believe they’re even vaccinated.”

Sonnenthal said she wrote the letter and gave it to a court officer and asked him to give it to the judge. 

“He was a little surprised, and said, ‘You’re leaving?’ and I said, ‘Yes, could you please give this to the judge?’ And he said again, ‘You’re leaving?’ and I said, ‘Indeed I am. Please be sure to give this to the judge,’ and I left.”

Sonnenthal said she hasn’t contacted the court, nor has the court contacted her since she left her jury duty prematurely. 

Davis said he had a rough understanding that a prospective juror was uncomfortable with another prospective juror who wasn’t masked. “My understanding is that she had lodged a complaint with the district court judge about that, a written complaint,” Davis said. He added he had learned about the situation after it occurred. 

“It never really came to our attention so we could address it,” he said. “Court officers certainly would have instructed that person to put a mask back on.”

Asked whom an individual might talk to with issues about maskless people, Davis said the court officers would be the “first point of contact.”

Massachusetts Jury Commissioner Pamela Wood confirmed court officers are tasked with policing masks.

“The court officers are charged with overseeing that, to make sure that people have the mask, that they’re wearing it properly, that they’re wearing it at all times,” Wood said. “Obviously, there’s always room for somebody to pull down their mask and blow their nose or take a drink of water, or the mask slips down over their nose … It has been reported to me that there was a court officer in the room with the juror who was concerned, and that the court officer did not observe anybody not wearing their masks, but of course the court officers have other responsibilities as well, so I can’t swear that they weren’t processing paperwork or making copies or something at the time the juror saw someone not wearing the mask properly.”

Davis said beyond the court officers, a juror or prospective juror “could bring it to the attention of our office, the clerk’s office, and we can move them to a separate room. So in fact today we had another individual who requested more spacing.”

He said his office accommodated that person. “But again, if we don’t know about it, we can’t do anything,” he said.

Wood said court officers can and will eject jurors who don’t comply with mask requirements. “They’ll be removed,” the commissioner said. “There’s no penalty. There’s no law against it. They will be removed form the courthouse by the court officer. Hopefully, they will be dismissed, but they won’t get credit for serving. If the juror says, I’m not wearing a mask, they’re going to be told they have to leave the building and they’ve got to contact the office of jury commissioner because they have not completed their jury service and complied with summons.”

Concerning Monday, Davis said, “It was the first day that we returned to jury trials, but we have brought jurors in,” he said, “to conduct several grand jury sessions, which are actually larger jury pools than the trial jurors … So we had grand jurors in here several times over the past 18 months …”

Davis stressed staff is focused on being careful. “We are trying to be very careful,” he said. “We’ve got certain constraints. We’re limited to the building that we use. We’re trying to be very careful to make sure people are safe and that they feel safe. Now in the case of the grand jury, we were able to use a different room, to have them seated in this more spacious room. But we were very careful to ask repeatedly whether they felt comfortable, whether they felt safe. You know, frankly, some of this was in the deeper ravages of COVID, when things were a little less certain and things were perhaps a little bit more frightening, but maybe not. In any event, we never encountered any issues, and the feedback we were getting was that people felt safe … So this is the first time we’ve had feedback under these particular circumstances.” 

Asked what the protocol was for a juror to be excused, Davis said, “If they want to be excused — I mean, you have to bear in mind that jurors appear for jury service pursuant to a summons issued by the commonwealth of Massachusetts — a court summons being a court order to appear for jury service, so it’s not a voluntary situation. And if a person needs to be excused, the judge has the authority to do that. So the thing to do would be to bring it to our attention and we could bring them before the judge. The judge would ask them certain questions. If the judge thought it was appropriate for them to leave, the judge could release them. What isn’t appropriate, what may have happened this time, is the person left before that happened. That shouldn’t be the case.”

Davis said a pool of prospective jurors is held in waiting to see if a case will move forward, and a requite number is selected if a case does move forward. Otherwise, the jurors are released by the court. 

“In this particular situation, the case did not go forward, so we released everyone,” he said. 

Wood said abandoning jury duty was not a trifling matter. “That’s actually a crime to depart from jury service without having been excused by the court and having been dismissed from service,” Commissioner Woods said. “So that’s a concern …”
Leaving service without permission could be punishable by a $3,000 fine and community service, she said, though she didn’t have the statute in front of her. “It doesn’t typically play out that somebody comes to jury service and then leaves. It does happen. It did happen the last time I had jury duty. The person went out on the coffee break and didn’t come back,” Wood said. “It’s typically people who don’t show up at all. We send them a summons and they don’t show up. Initially, they’d get a failure to appear notice, saying you were supposed to be there and you weren’t there, please call us and we’ll work this out … In this case, because the person was at the courthouse, the judge might take matters into his own hands.” 

Wood said judges have a lot of influence on the process, and can advance a delinquency process. “Sometimes we’ll get a call from a judge who says we had a juror who didn’t come back from lunch, and here’s what I want you to do, and they’ll direct our office to put them into the delinquent juror prosecution program and work it out,” the commissioner said. “What we most want is for people to do their jury service. What we want people to know is you don’t just come and go as you please if you’re not happy with what’s going on.”

Asked what prospective jurors can do if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe, Wood said they can contact the office of the jury commissioner ahead of time and ask for their service to be delayed a year, or they can be disqualified up to three years if they have a doctor’s note citing a medical issue.

“Prior to showing up you can contact us, and we’ll try to figure out a way to make you comfortable or to get you postponed or disqualified,” the commissioner said. “We are really pleased and gratified that people are showing up for jury duty. We’re getting a lot of compliments statewide about the protocols and protections and safety that people feel. By and large, people are pleased with the way we’re treating them at the courthouses. But if they get into the courthouse and they feel like, This just doesn’t feel safe to me, I don’t feel comfortable, I’m too anxious, I can’t help thinking about the chance of being infected, then they should speak to a court officer and say, I need to speak to the judge. I really need to leave. There’s actually even a procedure for that called a judicial discretion hearing.”

Commissioner Wood said significant preparation took place to get the courthouse ready for jurors, including ventilation and filtration systems. Masks are mandatory.

“Any member of the public, including prospective and seated jurors, have to wear masks at all times, and the court officers and anyone dealing with the public have to wear masks at all times,” the commissioner said. 

In an email to The Times, Edgartown District Court Clerk Magistrate Liza Williamson acknowledged the mask incident, and indicated it was a busy week. “Monday, Sept. 20th, began the first jury session in almost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Williamson wrote. “The District Court had a total of 83 jurors this week, and empanelled and successfully completed a jury trial on one of those days. During this week, Superior Court as well as Juvenile Court matters were held in conjunction with the District Court matters. The court received one complaint from a juror regarding mask compliance and other concerns. These concerns were immediately brought to the judge’s attention, and he addressed them.”

Williamson later clarified the judge addressed the matter by immediately dispatching a court officer to the jury room upon learning of the complaint. The court officer didn’t observe anyone without a mask, nor did an employee of the court. Williamson said the judge asked court officers and a court employee if they had previously seen anyone maskless, and the judge was informed they had not “observed any unmasked jurors, nor were there any complaints from other jurors.”

Williamson said she was disappointed the prospective juror didn’t immediately inform a court officer or court official, so the issue could have been “immediately addressed.”

55 COMMENTS

  1. Normally walking out in the middle of jury duty is a criminal offense but with a man refusing to cover his face and the court officer ignoring her I feel that Valerie was right to feel that her health was in danger.

    • Yes there is! Edgartown as well as the rest of MV have an indoor mask mandate. You don’t know what you’re talking about.

    • FIRST –Good for you Valerie– I will contribute if you get fined.

      John. I wonder how you would feel about it if the courthouse were on fire ?
      Some people take the mask mandate very seriously, and are concerned about their personal safety.
      In this case, Valerie did not feel she was in a safe environment.

      Let me put it in “Tucker Carlson speak” for you;
      “Think about it”, as he likes to say.
      She was ORDERED by the government to be there.
      She did not feel the corrupt and freedom hating government was providing adequate protection against what she perceived as a threat to her personal safety, and perhaps the safety of others in her family.
      Think about it– should she just sit there and risk infection , or should she exercise her CONSTITUTIONALLY protected right to save her family from this grave injustice perpetuated by a regime that demands that she should just sit passively by and die ?
      And then Tucker could go on and talk about how the current administration hates people who don’t blindly follow their “orders”.

      Yup, John, put the shoe on the other foot, and you will clearly see that this woman is a true hero and PATRIOT.

      John, I am not sure what you call a “law” but there is a mask mandate in effect for all indoor spaces in all buildings in Edgartown.

      When Andy chimes in on this one, he will surely tell us that we are in a complete lockdown.

    • Perhaps not a “law,” but masks are mandatory in public buildings right now. You can split all the hairs you want: yes, she broke the law but bandanna-man acted like a thoughtless boob-“yeah, the regulations don’t apply to me.” Don’t the islanders spend months complaining about this kind of behavior from summer people?

      • It’s not really splitting hairs, Dana. A mandate by a board or an individual is a dictate, which can be justified in a legitimate emergency for a temporary period. Laws are made with a broader representation of the will of the people and then must meet Constitutional muster. At now 20 months into the Covid virus, sufficient time has passed to codify these measures into law, should that be the will of the people and blessing of the Constitution.

    • My Body My Choice.
      I choose to not have my body anywhere near the unmasked.
      Do you have any kind of a problem with that, John?

  2. The actions of this irresponsible juror is why COVID-19 will be present for a long time. He should have been removed from the jury.
    If there are repercussions to the juror who left the jury, he hole system of juris prudence is failing

  3. Facts:
    1. There is an airborne virus in the air that is easily spread, killing unvaccinated people and making vaccinated people very sick.
    2. A bandana is not a mask
    3. Gathering groups of people in close proximity in a basement room increases the risk of transmission, infection and illness.

    Dukes County court needs to do better.

  4. While at first they seemed like an okay idea, there was an experiment from last year that showed bandanas may be worse than no mask at all when it comes to spreading droplets. I can’t find any follow-up studies. Far as I know, there’s nothing to contradict that finding. The court requires everyone to wear a mask. Why not use one that actually offers some protection and then wear it as expected? This isn’t complicated stuff. If other people are legally required to be in the same room with you, you can’t just subject them to potential disease at your leisure. No juror should be put in this position due to another.

    • Katie– you asked the question “Why not use one that actually offers some protection and then wear it as expected?”
      It’s a good question, and at the heart of the entire debate about anything to do with covid.
      The short answer is that they really really don’t give a rat’s butt about anyone else.

      • True. Some are letting vulnerable people get sick and die out of sheer apathy. 😔 I’ve found apathy is the hardest thing to fight because there’s no common ground or goal. You can’t convince someone to care, and yet saying nothing feels wrong.

  5. I’m fully vaccinated and reasonably brave, but I would not want to be in that room — which is not what I’d call well ventilated — with an unmasked person for any length of time, especially if I knew nothing about that person. The jury commissioner sounds like she doesn’t get it — how is someone supposed to contact her office ahead of time when they don’t know what they’re going to encounter when they report for jury duty? At this point, 18 months into the pandemic, basic precautions shouldn’t be news to anybody.

    • Agreed. Seemed like a lot of excuses. We were busy, didn’t know about it till after, a court officer would tell a person to put their mask in etc. I hope she and the other prospective jurors will get an apology and we’ll all get assurance that they will do better.

  6. Bandanas are not deemed to be as effective as masks, especially if it was not being worn and no one in charge said or did anything. I’m a at risk individual, see this happen a lot and it’s crazy making. Valerie demonstrated her commitment to jury duty by showing up and putting up with that situation for 75 minutes. I believe she is in her 60’s and has an at risk family member. Perhaps the best thing would have been to return and wait outside for the judge to release her. But I sympathize with her. Those in charge need to keep a close eye and step up and enforce the mask mandate.

  7. As a trial attorney who has spent the last 35 years regularly trying cases in New York State let me say that almost every public building in this country where unrelated people congregate is fundamentally unsafe when it comes to COVID. In March 2020, 2 Judges died and 4 Judges and almost 200 lawyers got seriously ill as a result of a COVID outbreak on the 7th Floor of the Kings County Courthouse. This past week I tried my first case in this Courthouse in 19 months. Even with draconian limits on the numbers of people allowed in the building the situation is still terrible. As of last Friday 5-6 Court employees were out sick in Brooklyn Supreme with COVID. If the Massachusetts court system is anything like New York’s there is presently no requirement that people who work in or enter a courthouse be vaccinated. Jurors, judges, court employees and lawyers are asked to protect themselves and one another by wearing masks and honoring the plastic barriers that have been installed to prevent the spread of COVID. Delta unfortunately is exponentially more transmissible than the first iteration of COVID -19 and is regularly breaking through the acquired immunity the vaccines initially conferred.

    In light of the foregoing I would ask the Commissioner of Jurors the following question: why can’t any Courthouse visitors including jurors, who fail to abide by the mandatory mask rules be prosecuted for criminal contempt? Masks are mandatory in public indoor places. It is the law and every public servant including judges, court officers, court employees and lawyers have a duty to see that this law is followed. If people refuse to wear a mask in a Courthouse they should be hauled in front of a Judge and ordered to wear a mask. If a visitor or juror continues to refuse to wear a mask they should be prosecuted for criminal contempt.

    By the same token people need to know that our justice system is premised in large part upon the right to a jury trial. Our Courts have been crippled by COVID and trials need to start moving forward again, no matter how imperfectly. Folks should remember that no matter what their personal circumstances are jury duty is a civic obligation. While I sympathize with Ms Sonnenthal I disagree with her actions. We don’t get to pick and choose which laws we will obey. This is especially so when we hold a privileged position in our community.

    I would urge anyone who sees the mask mandate flouted in a Courthouse to document the incident, make a ruckus immediately and demand to see the administrative judge. If you see something say something. Do it for yourself, your family and fellow citizens. Make some good trouble!

    • Masks and vaccinations together are proven the most effective, especially against the more contagious delta variant and breakthrough cases. Besides, people who disrespect and disregard the mask mandates in public tend to be antivaxer idiots.

    • Really? What an inane question. I’m vaccinated in the hope of staving off a more serious case of COVID. That being said, I can still, unknowingly carry the virus to young children, or older, compromised adults who may not be vaccinated due to potential allergic reactions. My vax protects me; I’m still responsible for helping those around me stay safe. That’s right-I AM my brother/sister’s keeper.

  8. The courthouse (and Bandana Man) are 100% at fault and should be held accountable for:
    1. Allowing someone into the courthouse without a mask. A bandana is not a mask. Neither is your hand or your shirt pulled up over your face. I’ve seen idiots kicked out of stores for not having a proper mask and for refusing the proper mask that was offered them;
    2. Ignoring the risk reported by a prospective juror to a court officer who dismally fails to fo his job;
    3. Corralling prospective jurors into an illegal public area without any handicap access which forces elderly and physically challenged people to maneuver a steep and dangerous staircase. That’s illegal. There’s no elevator. That basement room is used to hold jurors for hours, pandemic or not, making people descend and ascend more than once, including for lunch breaks. Last time I had jury duty, pre-pandemic, I asked for an elevator, telling the office I could not possibly safely get down those steps because my knee does not bend. I literally had to sit on each step and bump myself downstairs— twice! No one helped me.

    I’d sue the courthouse if I were Valerie if anyone threatened me with a fine for trying to protect a room full of people from some jerk without a mask and inept court employees.

  9. Count me in on Team Valerie. If I asked an officer of the court to help enforce a law that was putting me at risk and they did not and then I wrote a letter to the Judge explaining why I was leaving, I would not expect to face charges or fines. I would not have any idea that I broke the law since I had asked for help and the Court Officer was well aware of the situation. The Court was putting Valerie in a risky position and I do not believe the Court can do that. But Valerie, if you do get fined, many of us would chip in. And I hope others in the jury room come forward.

  10. Good for you Valerie! Only an imbecile would actually stay under those conditions! Packed into the basement of a moldy old courthouse like a tin of sardines, while an airborne infection is running rampant through our society! I guess the imbeciles are running the courthouse!!! No one should be subjected to that kind of treatment. It is those in charge who should be protecting citizens, not endangering them! Put the jury selection process on zoom, use some common sense!

  11. Count me in on the Valerie bandwagon. I’m sure that things went down pretty much as she described, based on what I’ve seen in the world. The officials all admit to being too busy that day and might have missed someone without a mask. That kind of schedule right off the bat in that decrepit old building? I wouldn’t have set foot in there, especially downstairs. That space was frightening before the pandemic. By her account, she did bring it to the attention of the court officers and was ignored. I’ll contribute to any fines. Bandana guy (which shouldn’t have been permitted in the first place) gets nothing but the court outlines all the things that could happen to the person that did what she felt was best for herself and her family’s safety? This is ridiculous.

  12. Going forward, it might be safer for the jury selections to take place across the street in the basement of the Whaling Church with EVERYONE present in masks as mandated by our state. This space could also serve as an appropriate area for “waiting in” while waiting to go back to court. The basement of the church has an easy to use ramp, and bathroom facilities….to every problem there is a viable, workable solution. It’s up to the town administrators and court personnel to make the right call, and make it easier for everyone to follow the rules, so let’s see what happens next!

  13. There’s always at least one antivaxer who is going to chime in with “most masks are not functional”. Even the best n95 is a non-functional mask when some jerk refuses to put it on. And still, a bandana is not a mask, on or off. I wonder if there’s a made-up “religious” mask exemption for selfish, disrespectful fools, like there is for vaccines?

  14. Here’s an idea– why don’t they have vaccinated people who are willing to be tested the day before in one room, and non vaxxed people in another room, or on a different day.
    That way everyone could go mask less.
    The vaccinated people wouldn’t have to worry very much because they are all vaccinated, and have had a negative test.
    The unvaccinated people could care less if no one is wearing a mask because it’s all a hoax and nobody really dies from this and it’s ( fill in your mad lib conspiracy theory here ) __________________-

    It’s a win win, and everyone could feel like they were back to normal.

  15. The really stupid thing about this situation is the upstairs courtroom was virtually empty
    with the only business 10 min’s worth of Mason Buddy. Enough said……

  16. How long is this going to go on. Many have been vaccinated myself included. Now that may not be good. Wear a mask oh no dont wear a mask oh no wear a mask. I am now regretting getting a vaccine as it appears to be useless and I was was sick for 2 days after getting it.
    This fear mongering cant continue. We need to go on with life.

    • Scott– no one is preventing you from going anywhere.
      Well, actually, there are many countries that are banning all Americans from entering, the 27 country block of the E.U only allows fully vaccinated Americans, and many more countries require lengthy quarantines..
      But you can go to Florida and watch a football game in a packed stadium without a mask.
      You can go to almost any state, Ma. included and not be required to wear a mask anywhere you go.
      I don’t know about anyone else, but having to wear a mask when I go into a public building has not stopped me from living my life to it’s fullest.
      I agree Scott, the fearmongering can’t continue.
      But the fearmongering I want to see stop is the fearmongering that the government is going to kick down the doors of unvaxxed people and hold them down to forcible vaccinate them or execute them. It is also not true that the government is building secret camps to put unvaxxed people in. There is no microchip in the vaccine, and noooooo — “they” are not putting the vaccine in salad dressing.
      At least I don’t think so— but you never know– a lot of people are throwing out their salad dressing just to be on the safe side..

  17. I watched college and nfl football games this weekend and the stands were full. It seems that people outside of MV have realized they are safe being vaccinated or have heard immunity or am I missing something.?

    • Hospitalization rates for children with covid are increasing to 200 a week now, with 2000 new covid cases in children every week. The reality is that 86% of Democrats are vaxed. Republicans are the biggest obstacle to vaccinations in this country. It only takes one unvaxed Repubican on jury duty or in the stadium stands without a mask to cause breakthrough cases in those who are vaxed but whose immune systems don’t work that well. Boosters will help, but we’re not all boosted yet.

      What would an ENGELMAN comment be without some false information thrown in? There is no herd immunity, here or anywhere else, thanks to the refuseniks.

    • Andy– you are missing the fact that in the U.S there are over 100,000 people getting infected every day. — 5,000 of them will be hospitalized and nearly 1,000 of them will die.
      Some people will die from other things because ICU units are at or beyond capacity in some states.
      The Vineyard has per capita hospitalization rates that are a fraction of the national average, and currently, a vanishingly small fraction of states such as Florida and Texas.
      We also have recorded no– -nada –zero– deaths from covid over the course of the pandemic.
      I hope this information is helpful.

      • No Keller your information is never helpful because it is always misleading. We are going to have covid and people are going to die–some people, and no one wants to go another year agonizing about every case and every death. We have 2.2 mm deaths in the USA every year from something. the reason football fields are full is because most reasonable people know this is over and they are not at much risk at all. Fear mongering the ‘tyranny of tiny risks” is not helpful.

  18. In my opinion, Valerie should check her privilege. Many others in the same situation most likely would not been allowed to leave without first going before the judge. Furthermore, rather than being passive aggressive, another idea might have been to speak to the individual directly – NPR offers some wonderful articles on how to navigate such an interaction – rather than making remarks to no one in particular. Where was your concern for the other masked jurors? Your sense of duty for the American Justice system? This instance could have been handled better. Lastly, have you been on the ferry and/or shuttle during peak commute hours lately?

  19. Valerie is special. She is entitled, lives in Chilmark, and is apparently more worthy than her good fellow citizens who actually sat on a jury trial, fulfilling their duty and the rights of a fellow citizen who was potentially on trial for his freedom. Valerie is a reporter from the MV Times who went into the courthouse looking for a story. She was the “one complaint” that week. Perhaps she was looking for her 15 minutes of fame, or perhaps she strives to be a real reporter and not just a town columnist. She went to George Brennan, full of outrage, but couldn’t ask her fellow citizen to pull up his mask. She is apparently a paralyzed victim until she sees her editor. She couldn’t wait one minute for the judge when the court officer asked her to wait while he got him. That would have ruined her highly unconfirmed story. The only thing we know for sure, is that she is so special, is that she can brag openly, in print, about breaking the law, after not waiting one minute for the judge to properly release her. Here’s an idea, write an article about the County putting money into the courthouse, or about how accessible safety and justice have been to this community during the entire pandemic, despite the almost insurmountable challenges. Thank you to our frontline courthouse workers. Some in this community value you.

    • The case did not move forward so all the prospective jurors were released from the room with no handicap access. So no, no one sat on a jury. Try reading the article before you rant so foolishly next time.

  20. Ms. Mendez-Diaz, you should re-read before you are so condescending. Let me quote for you:
    “The District Court…empaneled and successfully completed a jury trial that week.” Other islanders sat on an empaneled jury that week, obviously on another day, doing their civic duty without complaint. I agree 100% about the handicap access. It is shameful. Feel free to write your county commissioners as they are the landlords in control of the building. Usually the court personnel (tenants) are begging them for heat or air conditioning. I’m sure they’d love your support.

    • The group Valerie was in was not empaneled. They were all released. You said otherwise.

      The court employee who showed me the way to the downstairs room did not offer me any assistance getting down the steep flight. I later notified several court employees of my difficulties in managing those steps. I was basically ignored. I regret that I didn’t make more of a fuss and refuse to go down when first shown what was expected of me. It won’t happen again, so there’s no need for me to write a letter. Everyone who works at the courthouse knows it’s illegal not to provide handicap access.

      When Bandanna Man entered the courthouse he was not wearing a mask. He was allowed in by court employees who should have offered him a proper mask or not allowed him in.

      • Also, check YOUR reading skills before ranting. You spelled my name incorrectly even though it’s right in front of you.

  21. Why would anyone want to be supportive of court personnel who show no regard for the health, safety, and comfort of the public who are mandated to be there at a given time and for at least several hours? The court officers/personnel were not doing their job and the public should not have to pay for it by risking their health and safety.

    • Please check your privilege. Two wrongs do not make a right. An individual not abiding by the mask mandate does not provide justification for another to break the law. Furthermore, my interpretation of your post is that you are conflating the role of court officers and court personnel.

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