We start with a presumption of innocence: criminal defendants and covid protocols

Jan 11, 2021

January 11, 2021 — Last Monday, Public Health, Adventist Health Ukiah Valley, and the City of Ukiah administered 830 doses of the Moderna vaccine that were at risk of losing viability after a freezer failure at the hospital. They did it in about two hours, and had to turn people away. Not everybody who wanted one got it, but sometimes it helps to make a little bit of noise, as Anthony Adams, a lawyer in the public defenders office found after he called in to the board of supervisors meeting the following day to complain about being overlooked.

 We followed up with Adams on Friday. He wanted to be clear that he’s only representing his own personal perspective in the following interview.

He’s been vaccinated since Monday, but he’s still concerned about how courthouse working conditions make it hard to keep socially distant. For example, it’s impossible to have a confidential conversation with clients during an open court proceeding without leaning in close to whisper advice. Under ordinary circumstances, Adams also confers with incarcerated clients, which is much more difficult now with covid and the outbreak at the jail. He thinks the jail is doing everything it can to reasonably accommodate the need for legal representation, with a video conferencing system and a couple of rooms in the lobby, where he can meet with clients in person through plexiglass. 

Still, the public health emergency is making it really hard to make sure untried people can enjoy their constitutional rights and the presumption of innocence.