Updated at 3:26 p.m. Tuesday with information about a virtual jury trial in a district court.
In a bid to avoid an extensive backlog in cases during COVID-19, McKinney has become the first city in Texas to implement virtual criminal jury trials in its municipal court.
The trials involve the city’s court that handles Class C misdemeanors. The first such virtual case took place Nov. 10, the city said in a news release.
“We want our citizens to have efficient case resolution when they exercise their right to jury trial, so that meant we had to get creative,” Associate Judge Claire Petty said in the release.
In May, a Collin County district court may have been the first in the state, and possibly the nation, to hold a virtual jury trial.
In virtual trials, evidence is presented online and witnesses can be called, just like in-person trials. Pretrial hearings are held in advance, and if defendants object to a virtual trial, they can request the judge hold it in person after court restrictions are lifted.
The state has said courts cannot hold in-person jury trials until at least Feb. 1.
“We put a lot of time and effort into preparing and planning for our first trials to ensure a smooth process for all involved,” courts administrator April Morman said in a release. “I commend our entire team for pulling this off and being the first in the state is a huge honor and accomplishment we are very proud of. Municipal courts play an important role in our community, and we are pleased to continue our work despite the current conditions.”
Trials are streamed live in accordance with the open courts provision on the McKinney Municipal Court YouTube channel and are deleted when the trial ends.