A 60-year-old woman came to a Broward County courtroom for jury duty with what was presumed a fake note from a doctor alleging that they were exposed to the coronavirus, the chief judge told NBC 6 Wednesday.
Courtroom NW7900 had to be closed, and the state health department called and interviewed the juror and found they were not exposed and were not given a doctor's note.
"Whether they were trying to get out of jury duty or whatever their purpose, the whole thing turned out to be a hoax," said Chief Judge Jack Tuter.
Tuter said Palm Beach County had a similar experience Wednesday when a man came in with a mask, saying he couldn't go to jury duty because of the virus, now spreading through Florida. When asked to do a urine test to confirm, the man declined.
"It can have ramifications or repercussions throughout the building. It causes a lot of panic and potentially hysteria," Tuter said. "So we have to be mindful of information that’s accurate and truthful before we start making any kind of rash decisions."
Tuter is now speaking with the Broward County State Attorney's Office to see if any laws were broken.
Notices in all of the courthouses and satellite courthouses have been posted to not come into the building if you're showing symptoms along with further instructions. If you are not showing symptoms, Judge Tuter requests you operate as usual for now.
The staff there is working on methods to run the courthouse remotely if it does need to be closed. For now, Tuter says it is being rigorously cleaned by the CDC guidelines.
"I try to work closely with county government. Ultimately the statutes give me the power to close a courthouse but we rarely do that unless we’ve talked to all of our stakeholders who work in this building," Tuter said. "I think people should continue to operate in the courthouse the way we’ve done in the past. If we do think there is some kind of emergency, we’re going to let everybody know. We’re going to be as transparent as we can. But until then, everyone should just conduct business as usual. “
The State Attorney’s Office tells us the case will be referred to the Sheriff’s Office to investigate. NBC 6 hasn’t yet heard back from the BSO.