In a National First, a Criminal Jury Trial on Zoom in Austin

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An Austin judge convened the nation’s first criminal jury trial conducted entirely remotely by video conferencing, a misdemeanor traffic case that ended in a split verdict and a fine, KXAN reports. All of the parties – judge, lawyers, defendant, witnesses and jurors — participated over Zoom in the one-day trial, the first jury trial Travis County has managed to conduct since the pandemic forced shutdowns starting in March.

Travis County Justice of the Peace Nicholas Chu, who also allowed the trial to be broadcast on YouTube, said both parties agreed to the format. The county will evaluate the proceeding and make adjustments for future virtual trials, but Chu said he expects constitutional concerns will limit the use to lower-level cases. The jury found the defendant guilty of speeding, but acquitted her of speeding in a construction zone. Chu sentenced her to deferred adjudication and a $50 fine plus costs. The judge cautioned the six jurors and one alternate at the start of the trial to pay attention. “Don’t be going on Facebook or checking email,” he said, according to Courthouse News.

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