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United States District Court for the District of Minnesota
April 23, 2021, Decided; April 23, 2021, Filed
Case No. 20-cr-00200 (SRN/TNL)
SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, United States District Judge
This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Continuance of Trial [Doc. No. 41] filed by Defendant Daniel Berglund. Based on a review of the files, submissions, and proceedings herein, and for the reasons below, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part the motion.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the State of Minnesota has mandated that individuals must wear face masks while in public places. See Emergency Executive Order 20-81. Consistent with guidance from public health officials and as part of the Court's comprehensive plan for mitigating the spread of COVID-19 during judicial proceedings, this Court also requires that participants at trial wear face masks. In his motion, Berglund states that he is opposed to wearing a face mask during his trial, currently scheduled to begin May 13, 2021. Berglund also states that he is opposed to receiving a vaccination for COVID-19. Berglund argues that [*2] requiring him to proceed to trial without a mask or a vaccination would expose him to an unreasonable risk of contracting COVID-19, and he therefore moves to continue his trial "until the Governor lifts the face mask mandate for public places when there is general immunity from the COVID virus." (Mot. for a Continuance at 1.)
Although Berglund has not clearly articulated a constitutional basis for continuing trial, the Court finds that proceeding to trial at this time would not violate Berglund's constitutional rights. Courts have repeatedly found that requiring participants at trial to wear face masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic does not violate a criminal defendant's constitutional rights. See United States v. Tagliaferro, No. 19-CR-472 (PAC), 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 62698, 2021 WL 1225990 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2021); United States v. James, No. CR1908019001PCTDLR, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 190783, 2020 WL 6081501 (D. Ariz. Oct. 15, 2020); United States v. Trimarco, No. 17-CR-583 (JMA), 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159180, 2020 WL 5211051 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 1, 2020); United States v. Crittenden, No. 4:20-CR-7 (CDL), 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151950, 2020 WL 4917733 (M.D. Ga. Aug. 21, 2020). Courts have specifically upheld requirements that the defendant wear a mask during trial. E.g., Trimarco, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 159180, 2020 WL 5211051, at *6 (finding that the defendant's concern that wearing a mask would prevent the jury from observing his reactions to evidence and make the jury perceive the defendant as "dangerous and nefarious" did not justify continuing [*3] the trial, and requiring the defendant to wear a mask during trial). And insofar as Berglund objects to receiving a COVID-19 vaccination, the Court notes that nothing in the Court's COVID-19 Protocol for Jury Trials requires him to receive a vaccine. See Protocol for Jury Trials in the District of Minnesota (Revised Apr. 13, 2021), https://www.mnd.uscourts.gov/sites/mnd/files/Jury-Trial-Draft-Protocol.pdf.
To the extent Berglund argues that conducting his trial at this time would expose him to an unreasonable risk of contracting COVID-19, the Court finds that the risk of contracting COVID-19 does not justify a continuance. The Court has gone to great lengths to protect participants at all in-person judicial proceedings, in consultation with public health experts. See id. Moreover, Minnesota has attained a significant vaccination rate: 29% of Minnesotans have received a full course of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 41% have received at least one dose. See Vaccine Data, Minn. COVID-19 Response (Apr. 18, 2021), https://mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/data/index.jsp. As the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York recently explained:
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 78476 *; 2021 WL 1589548
United States of America, Plaintiff, v. Daniel Berglund, Defendant.
Prior History: United States v. Berglund, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14074 (D. Minn., Jan. 7, 2021)
vaccination, wear, face mask, continuance, contracting, proceedings