Courts in Texas To Begin Fully Online Jury Trials

Virtual jury trials scheduled this month in Austin and San Antonio are believed to be the first of their kind.

By Terri Langford & Alexandra HartAugust 10, 2020 3:03 pm, ,

As the world rearranged for the pandemic, some of what used to happen in person now happens over screens. The same is true in the legal system.

Since COVID-19 forced courts to close their doors, there have been few jury trials in Texas state courts for safety reasons. That’s about to change as state courts prepare to take those trials online. In Austin and San Antonio, courts are gearing up for what may be the first-of-their-kind trial by Zoom jury.

“Texas state courts are subjected to a Texas Supreme Court order that basically prohibits judges from having jury trials with limited exceptions,” said Angela Morris, reporter for Texas Law magazine. “So if a judge wants to have a jury trial, they have to get approval and come up with a plan to keep people safe.”

That means some defendants have had to deal with long waits for trials. But by allowing jury trials to begin over Zoom, courts hope to begin working through the backlog.

“Each one of us has a constitutional right to a jury trial. And there’s lots of cases that are pending that need resolution. So judges are serious about getting justice for those cases on their dockets,” Morris said.


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