SAN ANTONIO – Though the moratorium on jury service that was ordered last spring amid fears of spreading the coronavirus remains in place in Bexar County, it has been modified to allow for social distancing. On Monday, the first jury summonses for virtual civil jury trials were mailed to prospective jurors.
The summonses include instructions on how the new jury process works, informing jurors on where to report virtually, as well as the date and time.
“Jurors can register online, and we can actually send them emails because one of the things they’ll have to do is give us an email address or phone number,” said Julieta Schulze, chief central jury bailiff, on Tuesday.
Schulze, along with Local Administrative Judge Ron Rangel and the Bexar County IT Department, developed the new virtual jury system.
Rangel says the system only applies to civil jury trials. He said that, in each case, “the judge has the opportunity to address (jurors).”
“There will be 40 to 60 individuals on the screen that will be available to be on that jury,” Rangel said.
The entire proceedings, from jury summons to jury selection and testimony, will be done remotely.
Rangel said the new system is uncharted legal territory, and the county court officials are proceeding cautiously.
“The most important thing for us to consider is public safety,” he said. “We’re not going to put anybody at risk by coming into the courthouse for an in-person jury trial while this pandemic is ongoing.”