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Travis County holds nation's first virtual criminal jury trial for misdemeanor case

The whole trial, from jury selection all the way to a verdict, will be held online.

AUSTIN, Texas — The coronavirus pandemic is forcing the State of Texas to do something it's never done before: On Tuesday morning, Travis County held its first criminal trial virtually.

Six jurors and one standby heard the misdemeanor traffic case from their homes through Zoom. For now, only lower-level cases will be heard with this video technology.

Since March, state judges have held more than 340,000 hearings via Zoom, with more than 987,000 participants and more than 700,000 hours of virtual court. And, since June, Texas has held fewer than 10 in-person jury trials due to social distancing and safety precautions.

RELATED: Zoom booms as COVID-19 pandemic drives millions to its video service

Since many trials cannot be put on hold indefinitely, virtual trials via conference calls have become a necessity. 

Travis County Justice of the Peace Nicholas Chu held the nation's first criminal jury trial for a misdemeanor case. The entire trial, from jury selection all the way to a verdict, will be held online.

iPads were loaned to potential jurors by the Texas Office of Court Administration, for those that did not have access to technology.

It was all livestreamed Tuesday on YouTube starting at 8:30 a.m.


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