Federal trials stalled, after growing COVID-19 concerns

Published: Nov. 19, 2020 at 11:41 PM CST
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SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) - The federal courthouse in Sherman has moved all of their employees online for the next two weeks, citing a concern for the health and safety of their employees and the public.

“Of course, the decision is ultimately up to our regional judge, and our administrative judge, but it is a possibility that because of the spike in COVID-19 cases, we may have to stop having jury trials temporarily.” said Grayson County District Attorney Brett Smith.

Grayson County is seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases. With 465 active cases recorded as of Thursday- it’s no wonder the court system is taking extra precautions.

“There’s a letter that’s sent out with that summons, that says if you’ve got any symptoms or if you don’t feel comfortable enough to process, you don’t have to appear and yet, week after week we have had fifty to sixty jurors show up” Smith said.

The eastern division of the United States District Court has shut down felony pleas and sentencing until the first of the year, due to COVID concerns, and that includes the Paul Brown Federal Courthouse in Sherman.

With employees working remotely and away from the building until December 4th, District Attorney Brett Smith thinks his courtroom will be next.

“If the plug does get pulled, and I anticipate that’s what’s going to happen...then we’re not going to have jury trials-at least not until the first of the year. If that happens, we’ll adjust accordingly. The inmates that want trials are going to have to stay incarcerated. and other defendants that want a trial are just going to have to wait.” Smith said.

He said even if the courts do get the green light to shut down, they’ll continue to prepare cases for next year.

“The DA’s office is law enforcement just like any other law enforcement” Smith said. “We’re all going to continue working every day, we’ll be here.”

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