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Feds to hold first virtual jury trial

Minnesota’s U.S. District Court’s first remote jury trial begins Monday.

Chief Judge John R. Tunheim confirmed on Thursday evening that the case, Myriam Parada v. Anoka County, will be his court’s first virtual jury trial.

Up to now, Tunheim said in an email exchange, the court has been limited to virtual bench trials. The court does not have authority under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to conduct remote criminal jury trials, but it can proceed with civil virtual jury trials.

Monday’s trial will be the first time it has done so. “We are hoping this works well so it gives us an option to conduct civil trials during the pandemic,” Tunheim said. The chief judge will preside over the trial.

The case involves Parada, of Ramsey, Minnesota, who was arrested for driving without a Minnesota license after being rear-ended by another car on July 25, 2017.

Parada, who was 20 at the time, entered the country legally as a child and has lived in the United States for years, the ruling says.

According to ACLU-MN, which filed suit on her behalf, responding Coon Rapids Police Officer Nicolas Oman let the other driver go. But he jailed Parada on grounds that he couldn’t validate her identity.

The case uncovered an unwritten policy under which Anoka County Jail workers were required to refer all foreign-born detainees to U.S. immigration officials, regardless of their immigration status, according to Tunheim’s July 30 order in the case.

His order granted summary judgment to Parada on her claim that the county’s policy violates the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment on equal protection grounds.

The judge left the issue of damages to be decided by a jury.

The trial begins Monday at 9 a.m. and is expected to last three days, according to Lynette Kalsnes, communications director for ACLU-MN.

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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