Social distancing for jurors allowed trial to continue despite COVID-19 pandemic
SANTA ANA, Calif. – A jury convicted a 23-year-old Buena Park man of sexually assaulting a two-year-old girl while he babysat her in 2016. Closing arguments were allowed to be given in front of a jury despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Arthur William Robert Callender was convicted on April 1, 2020 of two felony counts of sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 10.
Callender faces fifty years to life in state prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced on June 12, 2020 in Department C44 at the Central Justice Center.
Callender was arrested in October 2016 after officers working on a Task Force with the Department of Homeland Security launched an investigation into several inappropriate internet postings involving a female toddler.
Callender’s trial was ongoing when the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court issued an unprecedented order on March 23, 2020 suspending jury trials be suspended for 60 days. Given the serious nature of the crimes and the advanced stage of Callender’s trial, Orange County Superior Court Judge Andre Manssourian found good cause to exempt Callender’s trial from the suspension order.
Fourteen of the 16 jurors empaneled for the case – 12 jurors and two alternates – returned to court on April 1, 2020 to hear closing arguments.
Social distancing was enforced, with jurors being spread out across the entire courtroom instead of being restricted to the jury box. Many of the people in the courtroom wore masks.
Jurors were taken to a separate courtroom to deliberate where the same social distancing measures were enforced. After an hour of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict on both felony counts.
“The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is incredibly grateful to the jurors for their commitment to the criminal justice system,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “Despite the challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, these men and women came to court, considered the evidence, and returned a verdict that will keep this monster behind bars for decades. Their selflessness will prevent him from victimizing other children.”
Assistant District Attorney Kal Kaliban, head of the Sexual Assault Unit, and Deputy District Attorney Courtney Thom prosecuted this case.