Posted on 2/15/21

Judges, attorneys, and defendants must learn how to adapt to jury trials during the coronavirus pandemic. Between March and June, Texas courts held zero jury trials due to the coronavirus. Some counties postpone jury trials even longer, resulting in a statewide backlog of criminal cases that might take years to overcome. Some Texas counties began opening back up for in-person jury trials. However, critics are raising concerns about the risk of contracting coronavirus in the courtroom.

One man had been in a Texas county jail for over a year and a half. He was facing charges for stealing from two trucks and already had multiple burglary convictions in his criminal record. Initially, his trial was scheduled for March 16th. It was delayed for months and finally occurred in mid-August. His case is not unique. In 2019, Texas Courts held 186 jury trials in criminal and civil cases in the average week. Between March and June, that number went down to zero.

During the trial, the defendant tested positive for Coronavirus. Jail officials knew about the positive test, but he was allowed to come to court for an entire day due to a miscommunication between the transport staff and the jail staff. He exposed a whole room to coronavirus. The judge eventually declared a mistrial after informing the jurors they had been exposed to the coronavirus. Now he is sitting in jail awaiting another trial.

Challenges Related to Jury Trials During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Now counties are experimenting with holding in-person jury trials. Defense attorneys are concerned about jury selection. During jury selection, courts have released all of the potential jurors who said they were not comfortable being in court due to the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, the jury pool may become skewed to people with particular ideologies. The attorneys, witnesses, judge, and jury members were required to wear masks. 

The Backlog is Ongoing 

Even though courts have allowed jury trials again, they are still not holding the same number of jury trials they held in 2019. As a result, the backlog continues to grow. Inmates accused of violent crimes must remain in jail, according to an executive order issued by Governor Abbott. There were only 25 criminal jury trials between June and September. Additionally, courts in rural areas of Texas have not been able to start up jury trials as quickly as other courts. Some experts expect the backlog of jury trials to exceed 10,000 cases by July 2021.

Contact a Flower Mound Criminal Defense Lawyer

Navigating the criminal justice system is more challenging than ever. If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, or you have been sitting in jail awaiting your trial, the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Abel Law Firm are here to help. We can attempt to speed up the process and ensure your rights are protected while waiting for your trial. We are experienced in in-person and virtual trials and can advocate for your best interest. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation. 

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Phone: 972.584.7837

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