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EDWARDSVILLE — The Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office jury trial teams are back following state mandates brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first felony jury trial in more than six months was held last week in front of Circuit Judge Kyle Napp. A guilty verdict was returned late Thursday night against Michael Weis, 36, of Granite City, finding him guilty of three counts of criminal sexual assault, two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, and three counts of child pornography for the acts involving a 13-year-old victim.
To comply with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, the courtroom where witnesses testified was closed to the public. Instead of the jurors sitting next to one another in the jury stand, they were spread out in the benches where the public typically is seated. A web camera was set up to face the witness stand and live video footage appeared on a projector screen in another courtroom allowing the public to listen and watch the trial. Limited capacity was allowed in the public courtroom.
“This week’s trial proved we can continue to deliver justice for our victims while taking precautions to slow the spread of the virus,” said First Assistant Madison County State’s Attorney Crystal Uhe. “The first trial back was a tremendous success for the victim and particularly our Children’s Justice Division. By continuing to move trials forward, our office can continue to provide a voice to the vulnerable victims of heinous and violent crime.”
A first-degree murder bench trial is scheduled to start Monday before Napp. Donald Nelson, of Alton, is facing charges of fatally shooting Godfrey Village Trustee Eldon Williams on Oct. 16, 2018, in his driveway. Police said Williams was preparing to show a house that day when the shooting occurred.
Because the trial is a non-jury trial, a limited number of family members and close friends will be allowed to sit in the public seats in the courtroom. When the maximum COVID-19 capacity is met, the public will be able to watch the bench trial by live video footage in another courtroom in the same way the Weis trial was conducted. Precautionary measures will continue to be administered, such as sanitizing the witness stand following each witness.
“Our mission is to get justice for victims and our community, and we are happy to finally be able to get back to that critical work,” said Uhe. “It takes tough, experienced professionals in law enforcement to successfully take predators and violent criminals off the streets and put them behind bars.”
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