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Man sentenced to prison during remote hearing

Judge Catherine Torres-Stahl conducts hearing from home

SAN ANTONIO – The sentencing hearing for Daniel Zambrano and co-defendant, Anthony Mireles, on Wednesday was among several hearings that 175th District Judge Cathrine Torres-Stahl has presided over from her home.

The virtual hearings are all part of a new way of doing things in the criminal justice system within the constraints in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve done things a certain way for a very long period of time, and so we have to kind of step back and figure out confidentially issues and document sharing,” Torres-Stahl said Thursday during an interview conducted remotely through a service called Zoom.

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She said the new way of doing things is also a technical challenge, but she’s been able to adapt quickly.

“Obviously, I didn’t do this alone,” she said. “We had a lot of people, especially the prosecutors, doing a lot of the heavy lifting.”

“They had to create documents that had to be signed virtually,” she explained.

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Torres-Stahl said that though judicial considerations are important, she is also concerned about the public’s safety, which makes working from home necessary.

She said that in all likelihood, this will become a part of the legal process in the future. But during this time, she’s missed working in court.

She smiled and said, “I definitely miss the courtroom, and I definitely miss all the interaction with everyone in the courtroom.”

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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