During the outbreak of the pandemic, the Supreme Court of Illinois ordered all Illinois courts “to establish and periodically update, as necessary, temporary procedures to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on the court system, while continuing to provide access to justice”. In line with these directions, courts issued orders imposing a mask requirement in all courthouse locations.
A defendant sentenced to five years in prison filed an appeal against the judgment of conviction alleging that he was denied his constitutional right to a fair trial by an impartial jury when the trial court required that all jurors wear masks during voir dire (i.e., the process used by the parties to select a fair and impartial jury).
By judgment of 29 November 2022, the Appellate Court of Illinois rejected the appeal stating that there was no evidence that the wearing of a face mask “thwarted the purpose of voir dire examination—namely, the selection of a jury free from bias or prejudice”. Being able to see jurors’ noses and mouths as not essential for assessing credibility, the Court said.
Reference: People v. Smart, Appellate Court of Illinois, 29 November 2022.