CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Jury trials across Texas have been on hold since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic closed courtrooms and sent the legal system online.
That delay has been extended another month.
The Texas Supreme Court amended its order in late June, pushing jury trials back until at least Sept. 1. Legal professionals on both sides of the bench applaud the decision.
They also don’t believe courtrooms will be in session come September.
“I actually think it’s going top be bumped further back, but the Supreme Court order right now says September 1st,” said 347th District Court Judge Missy Medary.
“A jury trial is the most important thing that I can do, any defense lawyer can do,” said defense attorney Lisa Greenberg. “If we can’t do that safely, then we need to wait.”
When it comes to jury trials at the Nueces County Courthouse, the biggest safety concern is the Central Jury Room.
“We’re not going to have 300-400 people in there, that is not doable because we cannot keep them socially distant, and we cannot keep them six feet apart,” said Medary.
To keep people safe, jury pools will be broken into groups of 60. Each district court judge will have a time assigned for jury selections, and jurors will be picked in the Central Jury Room.
“I worry for people going to jury duty,” said Greenberg. “If I need a jury trial, I worry that the people in the courtroom are going to feel scared.”
However, these delays mean inmates awaiting trial have a longer wait.
“We have individuals that are in jail that need their day in court,” said Medary. “Every day that we are not doing jury trials, that back up even farther.”
“That in itself is problematic, but we want to make sure we do it right,” said Greenberg.
Medary says once courtrooms are open, visiting judges may be brought in to help lighten the ever increasing backlog.