Bexar Co. Criminal District Courts clear close to 400 cases in past 3 weeks

Low COVID positive rate allowed for increase in case load at courthouse

SAN ANTONIO – Since reopening to in-person jury trials, some backlogged cases have started to clear out.

In the past three weeks, almost 400 cases have been cleared in the Bexar County Criminal District Courts.

“Four hundred on top of what we are already moving is a significant number of cases and it’s definitely going to reduce our backlogs,” 379th District Court Judge Ron Rangel said.

Most of those cases have ended with plea deals as defendants faced possible jury trials.

“(COVID) numbers have really improved and as a result of that we are seeing cases move much faster,” Rangel said.

Courts have reopened to in-person trials twice since the pandemic started, but with fewer jury panels seated each week.

Now, because of the lower positivity rate, about 40 panels can be seated each week among all courts.

“On the criminal side, it’s really impossible for judges to move cases along unless there is a jury in the hallway,” Rangel said.

The hope is that numbers stay low so that justice can be served in many more cases that have been pending for years.

“This is something everybody wants to see,” Rangel said.

District Attorney Joe Gonzales also commented about the recent clearance in cases and sent KSAT 12 this statement:

“During the suspension of jury trials, our office continued to try to negotiate plea deals on the tens of thousands of pending cases. We know that fewer than 10% of criminal cases are resolved by trial, but oftentimes an agreement cannot be reached until a jury is waiting in the hallway. In fact, that happened just last week in a case of a defendant who opened fire on a police officer. While we are definitely resolving more cases this year than in 2021, the number of pleas is still about 200 fewer compared to the same time in 2019. By some estimates, the backlog of cases pending in the courts may take at least three years for the courts to catch up. Productive weeks like we have seen these last three weeks not only help with that backlog, it also brings justice to victims of crime.”

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About the Authors

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

Misael started at KSAT-TV as a photojournalist in 1987.

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