Some in-person hearings resume, but trials in Texas courts cancelled until Sept. 1

Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 11:55 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2020 at 11:00 AM CDT
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SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) - The Texas Office of Court Administration is prohibiting judges in the state from holding in-person jury trials until Sept. 1, but Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith says he’s still moving cases forward.

“Cases by jury trial is generally a small percentage of what we do,” Smith said. “So people who want a trial in Grayson County, people who want a trial in the state of Texas are simply going to have to wait for their trial. They’re going to have to wait for their day in court, whether they’re incarcerated or not.”

Some hearings are still being held over Zoom, while in-person hearings started back up over the past week.

“That has now opened up where the courts are now allowing people to come to court that are out on bond and within the past week or so they have started bringing inmates back into the court room,” Smith said.

Smith said it has been a joint effort by the sheriff’s office, the district attorney’s office and all five courts in Grayson County to keep cases moving.

Smith dismissed any reason for a defendant to claim their right to a speedy trial by jury would be violated under the new guidelines.

“When the Texas Supreme Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals, which are the two highest courts in Texas, say ‘no jury trials’ it’s going to be very difficult for them to raise a speedy trial violation,” Smith said.

Masks are not required in any area of the court room blocked off by plexi-glass. So judges, witnesses on the stand, and clerks are not required to wear them for in-person hearings.

Smith said there are not a significant number of cases awaiting trial in the court system.

“They make up a large amount of the work that we do here, but trials are not the main way we move our cases.”

Smith said most cases are resolved by plea agreements, and most awaiting trial are major cases.

Courtroom capacity is limited to ten people, and scheduled hearings have been spread out throughout the day to allow bailiffs time to clean court surfaces.

Hand sanitizer is available and seats in the gallery are marked for social distancing.

Smith said he anticipates jury trials will resume by end of next month.

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