Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in Iowa, most of the court proceedings have been very limited.
Greene County Attorney Thomas Laehn says the Iowa Supreme Court sent out supervisory notices that delayed all in person court proceedings until July 13th and no jury trials until September 14th. However, Laehn tells Raccoon Valley Radio his office has continued to prosecute criminal cases via written statements or telephone conferences. He says the court has allowed misdemeanor offenses to always be done without being in person, but the newest waiver from the Supreme Court is allowing felony cases to proceed without being in person.
“I looked at some of our cases over the course of the past few months and we’ve had several defendants plead guilty and agree to go to prison for extended periods of time. We conducted all of those hearings either on the telephone, in a conference call with the judge, or in writing.”
Laehn points out that even with the success of sending criminals to jail or prison, he is excited to get back into a courtroom because of one important aspect.
“I think it really helps a judge determine who’s telling the truth based on the witnesses body language, their appearance on the witness stand, (or) how they interact with the defendant even if it’s across the room. And that non-verbal dimension to a proceeding is lost on a telephone call.”
At one point last month, Laehn says his office had over 100 indictable offenses to prosecute. He adds, he is not concerned with the potential backlog of cases once the courts open again because of the good job his office is doing of prosecuting cases during the interim period of COVID-19.