In this unprecedented era of social distancing, Texas has held what is thought to be the first jury trial conducted by video conference.
The Collin County case – a one-day summary jury trial – was an insurance property damage dispute involving State Farm.
“More than two dozen potential jurors logged in by smartphone, laptop and tablet for jury selection, which was streamed live on YouTube with a judge occasionally providing tech advice on how to best use their devices,” according to Reuters. “Officials say the abbreviated format and non-binding verdict make it ideal to test the viability of holding jury trials remotely.”
In-person jury trials began grinding to a halt nationwide in March, as court administrators in 39 states, including Texas, asked judges to begin conducting hearings remotely by phone or videoconference.
While the Texas case was the first remote jury trial, non-jury proceedings have been conducted remotely in other states.
“In April, a Florida court held a bench trial over Zoom to decide a child abduction case under the Hague Convention,” reports the ABA Journal. “Later that month, the same state held a major virtual trial on the voting rights of convicted felons, with the public listening in by phone.”
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Here are some other interesting nuggets from the Texas virtual trial:
- The case was originally scheduled to be tried in March.
- The outcome of the summary trial was non-binding.
- Texas held an average of 186 jury trials per week in 2019, according to the Texas Office of Court Administration.
- From the ABA Journal: “In Texas, the public has access to hundreds of proceedings on YouTube, where prosecutors, judges, defendants and public defenders convene on Zoom.”
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