With the return of jury trials in Pitkin County slated for the first full week of April, the number of local residents passing through the Aspen courthouse is expected to increase significantly.
However, many residents might be surprised, as recent renovations to the Pitkin County Courthouse brought new security measures that had never existed before in the 130-year-old building.
“Our beautiful city has been pretty safe (over these decades),” said Pitkin County MP Brady Jax, who is now in charge of courthouse security. “But (recently) some defendants have become aggressive with judges… and the 9th Judicial District felt it was time to change security. With the renovation, we were able to bring it into the 21st century.
This means that entering the building is no longer as easy as going through the front, side or rear doors. The only entrance now available to the public is the front door on Main Street.
Once inside, visitors will be faced with a setup familiar to anyone who has entered another courthouse in the state and country or passed through airport security. Visitors have to take most items out of their pockets, along with belts, which go through a new x-ray machine, and then they have to go through a metal detector. Two contract security guards are now stationed at the entrance.
The new security measures include a long list of more than 30 items now banned inside the building, including weapons of any kind, sports equipment, tools, alcoholic beverages and fixed or video cameras. The most common items that people have tried to bring since security checks began last summer are controlled drugs and substances, lighters and knives, Jax said.
Security guards will not keep prohibited items.
Dogs are the only pets allowed inside the building, although they must be checked by their owners at all times, kept on a leash, and the dog and its collar will need to be cleaned during the selection process.
Visitors with disabilities who could previously enter the building through the back door and use the elevator to navigate between floors have a new entrance just to the right of the staircase leading to the main entrance which includes an elevator to the new control room. security.
9th Judicial District Chief Justice James Boyd has set April 5 as the start of jury trials in Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties. Jury trials have been postponed since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Aspen, the first jury trial in Pitkin County Court is scheduled for April 8, Jax said, and would-be jurors should take note of the new proceedings.
“The courts are very concerned about COVID,” Jax said.
First, to allow for social distancing, only about 20 potential jurors will be allowed inside the building at a time. Employees at the court registry will collect jury summons, distribute a questionnaire to the jury and take people’s cell phone numbers, he said.
“It can rain or snow, so jurors should dress accordingly,” Jax said. “We’re just asking that people bring as little as possible. Don’t bring two backpacks and a purse.
Then, potential jurors will be invited to hang out around town or in their cars or those who live nearby can return home until called to the courthouse by the clerks and invited to return, he said. he declares.
Once inside, the group of about 20 people must wear face masks and will be divided into two groups. One will be seated inside the large courtroom on the second floor, while the other will be shown at the newly created courtroom in the building’s basement, Jax said. The judge in charge of the trial will be able to speak with the two groups via video links.
“We just want people to know what they’re getting into,” Jax said.
The new security procedures will cost the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office about $ 240,000 per year, including Jax’s new position and two full-time security guards, Deputy Sheriff Alex Burchetta said.
As of February, 10 felony and 14 misdemeanor jury trials were held in Pitkin County, according to prosecutor Don Nottingham.