ODESSA, Texas (Big 2/Fox 24) – For the last four months the Court of Appeals has suspended all jury trials in the state due to COVID-19. Even though jury trials are on hold here in the Basin, local District Attorneys are still taking on cases.
“We’ve been keeping up to date with all the incoming cases, we just can’t do trials,” Ector County District Attorney Bobby Bland said. “We’re still working out plea bargains, there are plenty of people that are getting probation or getting pent time.”
While jury trials are being put on hold, Bland said Ector County is also working with defendants to prevent jail overcrowding.
“We’ve made it a point to do what we can to reduce the population,” Bland said. “Either through pleas, or polling cases or personal cognizance bonds to make sure the jails didn’t get overcrowded.”
For the defendants who remain in jail to wait for their day in court, Ector County Sheriff Mike Griffis said the time they spend waiting now will go toward their sentence if convicted.
“If somebody is sentenced at trial or at pleading, and they’re sentenced by a judge they will get credit for everyday they spend in this jail,” Griffis said.
Laura Nodolf, Midland County District Attorney, said they are mindful of defendants’ rights to a fair trial, but they are also making sure victims get their day court when jury trials can resume.
“Most victims have been very understanding, and they don’t want the trial to be compromised in any way shape or form,” Nodolf said. “Because if a case is compromised, all it will do is create an issue that if a conviction is had we’re dealing with appeal on appeal for years later.”
But once trials can start again, Nodolf said they will be ready to move forward with all of their cases.
“Once these restrictions are lifted we are going to move forward with these cases as quickly as we can and we’re prepared for that,” Nodolf said. ” But we have to protect the rights of all in order to ensure a fair and unbiased trial.”
Ector County is aiming to resume their jury trials by September 1st. Midland county is hoping to go back by October 1st. They will continue to monitor the outbreak to determine if they will be able to return to the courtroom then.