Rather than proceed with a jury trial during an enormous spike of COVID-19 cases in Teton County, 9th District Court Judge Timothy Day pushed Michael Lynch’s criminal trial to spring.

Lynch’s trial was supposed to start Nov. 2 and last two weeks, but it now is tentatively scheduled for May, according to Day’s order.

Lynch, through his attorney Elisabeth Trefonas, objected to having his trial during the pandemic, arguing it could impact his right to a fair trial.

But that’s not why Day continued the trial.

“The length of this trial is two weeks, and it includes two additional recesses,” Day wrote. “The length of trial and its additional recesses extends the periods that jurors are assembled together and also extends the opportunities for jurors to be exposed to the virus outside the courtroom.”

Lynch faces various charges of burglary, theft, forgery and domestic battery. He is awaiting trial at his mother’s house in Colorado and waived his right to a speedy trial. The state, represented by Chief Deputy Prosecutor Clark Allan, did not object to a continuation.

Day said spring might bring different conditions based on the availability and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine. But if not, the court has a trial plan that has been approved by public health officials and the Wyoming Supreme Court.

“The court finds and concludes it is prudent to err on the side of caution and to continue trial,” Day wrote. But he added, “It is possible that the parties and defendant may need to proceed under similar circumstances in the future.”

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066 or courts@jhnewsandguide.com.

Emily Mieure covers criminal justice and emergency news. She also leads the News&Guide’s investigative efforts. She has reported for WDRB TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE TV in Evansville, Ind., and WEIU TV in Charleston, Ill.

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