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Are Jury Trials By Videoconference the Future in Texas?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Frisco criminal defense attorney

The U.S. Constitution states: “The accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial.” However, after months of the pandemic postponing jury trials, even now the courts have slowed down due to precautions being taken for public safety. In a sense, that right to a speedy trial has been put into jeopardy. About a month ago, the justice system in Collin County was among the first in the nation to offer a jury trial by videoconference. While the trial did reach its conclusion, it was not without complications, which made it all the more beneficial that the case itself was a civil, non-binding summary jury proceeding. In other words, as a test case with this new technology, its failure would not be of great detriment to anyone’s life or livelihood as with many criminal proceedings, such as those for homicideDWI, or even drug possession. However, merely being open to this shows that Collin County might be willing to adopt something similar in the future for more types of cases. The following are the pros and cons of this new trend in technology.

3 Drawbacks of Virtual Jury Trials

Many lawyers, especially criminal defense attorneys, and other legal experts will be quick to point out the shortcomings of holding a jury trial virtually. These problems may include:

  1. Technical Issues—It is bad enough having connectivity issues for daily meetings at your day job, but with something as important as a jury trial, that adds a whole other level of disruption that could put constitutional rights of the accused in peril. For instance:

    • If one or more of the jurors misses important testimony, arguments, or other necessary parts of the trial due to connectivity or other technical issues, then the accused is not getting a fair trial.

    • If people are excluded from the jury pool simply because they do not have adequate Internet access, or any at all, then the accused is not being tried by a jury of his/her peers.

  2. Jury Distractions—With trials in court, the jurors are a captive audience in that they have to listen and pay attention to everything. In a virtual trial, they could be surfing the Web or doing any number of things while only partly listening to the arguments and testimonies.

  3. Limited Experience—For lawyers and jurors alike, the virtual experience is severely limiting relative to the traditional courtroom experience. It is difficult if not impossible for lawyers to “study” the jury, the witnesses, and all their reactions to testimony. Plus, there is a level of theatrics that will be missing from a virtual courtroom, and sometimes it is that very drama found through an in-person presentation that can sway a jury.

3 Benefits of Virtual Jury Trials

Of course, there could be some advantages to conducting jury trials via videoconference. A few of these benefits might include:

  1. Stronger Presentation of Evidence—In many cases, if there is documentation or other evidence that might require a closer look, the jury would actually be able to see it and inspect it up close for a long time on their computer screens. This can actually improve their understanding of the case and impact them more fully.

  2. Added Convenience—More jurors will be able and willing to participate in the legal process since they know they will not need to travel to the courthouse.

  3. Improved Transparency—With everything being recorded on video, courtroom proceedings will never be misinterpreted by the public or incorrectly documented by stenographers.

Contact a Collin County Criminal Law Attorney

Certain criminal offenses can result in a jury trial in Texas. If you or someone you know is facing any criminal charges, representation from a knowledgeable Frisco criminal defense lawyer who stays updated on the latest legal trends will put you in the best position to win your case. That is why calling the Law Offices of Biederman & Burleson P.L.L.C. at 469-333-3333 to schedule a free consultation is a smart move. 

 

Sources:
https://www.dallasnews.com/news/courts/2020/05/22/in-a-test-case-collin-county-jury-meets-on-zoom-for-the-first-time-but-some-lawyers-say-its-too-risky-for-real-trial/
https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/texas-court-holds-first-us-jury-trial-via-videoconferencing/2374556/
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-courts-texas/texas-tries-a-pandemic-first-a-jury-trial-by-zoom-idUSKBN22U1FE 

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