Bexar County grand juries conclude service under challenging circumstances

Pandemic and cold weather mark panel’s two-month terms

SAN ANTONIO – The circumstances under which the two latest grand juries served were anything but ideal, with the pandemic ongoing and the recent winter storms in the Bexar County area.

The 12-member panels met alternately twice weekly in the cavernous central jury room in the Cadena-Reeves Justice Center basement, which made maintaining social distancing ideal. All other COVID-19 protocols were also followed, including masks and constant cleaning.

“They came in during the worst part of the pandemic and worked every day,” Local Administrative Judge Ron Rangel said Tuesday.

Rangel impaneled one jury and 226th District Judge Velia Meza another.

The juries reviewed a combined total of about 1,600 cases, down considerably from a usual average of 2,000 cases per grand jury, according to Rangel.

“Since the pandemic started, because of policies within the District Attorney’s Office and with the arresting agencies, arrests are down by about one-half, which explains the low numbers,” Rangel said.

He said maintaining the secrecy that by law must surround grand juries was a challenge due to the sheer size of the central jury room, which can accommodate more than 600 people.

“We had extra security outside the central jury room so that nobody would go into the room that is normally open to the public,” Rangel said.

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About the Authors:

Paul Venema is a courthouse reporter for KSAT with more than 25 years experience in the role.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.