Texas tries nation’s first virtual criminal trial

by | Aug 19, 2020 | Opinion

A Texan’s speeding ticket put her in the legal history books last week.

To combat the backlog in criminal cases created by the pandemic, a Travis County justice of the peace conducted the nation’s first virtual criminal trial. The case was livestreamed on YouTube, and the jurors deliberated in a private Zoom room.

Legal experts debated whether trial by Zoom properly balanced constitutional concerns such as the right to a speedy trial and the right to confront witnesses.

The test case? A nurse’s misdemeanor ticket for speeding in a construction zone. The jury found the nurse, Calli Kornblau, guilty of speeding but acquitted her of the construction zone violation. She received a deferred sentence and was ordered to pay a $50 fine, plus court costs.

The jury is still out on whether Zoom is the courthouse of the future. The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association had some fun on Twitter with the practice: “A JP is having a virtual jury trial this morning on a speeding ticket. Does that mean the JP will have to have virtual coffee with the police officer before the trial starts, too?”

Texas docs: Get your shots

Texas doctors are taking their best shot at encouraging people to get immunized.

August is National Immunization Month, and the Texas Medical Association is distributing a series of columns by physicians in support of vaccinations.

“Vaccines are among the safest and most effective tools available to and used by physicians. Yet vaccine hesitancy and even refusal are increasing,” Dr. Sue Bornstein, a Texas Medical Association board member, wrote in her column.

Doctors should make recommending vaccinations a part of routine patient visits, she said. The pandemic makes this even more important as researchers race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, she added.

This job will take you places

SpaceX aims to put people on Mars from its launch site near Brownsville. First, though, the spaceport needs an out-of-this-world resort.

The company placed an unusual help-wanted ad last week: for a resort manager in the tiny unincorporated Boca Chica Village near Brownsville on the mouth of the Rio Grande River. The right candidate will develop the resort from inception to completion, according to the ad.

The job requires a bachelor’s degree and five-plus years of experience in construction management. One additional requirement: Must be able to travel for short and extended trips as needed.

SpaceX, which made history recently as the first private company to send astronauts safely to space and back, also released footage of a successful 150-meter hop Aug. 4 by its Starship SN5 prototype.

Ports-to-Plains plan

The Ports-to-Plains corridor study of Interstate 27 will be navigated during a virtual public hearing at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 25, and Wednesday, Aug. 26.

Texas Department of Transportation officials will make the presentation and allow time for public comment. People also may mail or email comments about the study until Sept. 10.

The Legislature approved last session a study of expanding I-27. The interstate runs from Amarillo to Lubbock. The plan calls for extending the road north of Amarillo and south about 500 miles from Lubbock to Laredo.

To join the WebEx public hearing, go to TxDOT.gov. For questions, call 512-486-5106.

How many hats can a Texas deputy wear?

People who live in Texas small towns are used to wearing a multitude of hats.

But the Culberson County attorney isn’t sure a chief deputy also can serve as an elected alderman, or city council member. County Attorney Stephen Mitchell filed a request last week for an opinion from the Texas attorney general’s office. He attached a 1975 AG opinion that such wearing of multiple hats was not legal.

The deputy ran for and was elected as an alderman in Van Horn, the Culberson County seat in West Texas. He has since been promoted to chief deputy.

“Issues have been raised about ‘dual-office holding,’ inasmuch as both ‘offices’ pay sums of money to the deputy on a monthly basis,” the county attorney wrote. “Additionally, there appear to be issues regarding common law or constitutional ‘conflicts of interest.’ ”

The yin and yang of ranching

“The Future of the Wildlife Enterprise” will be at your fingertips through a free Zoom symposium offered by two departments at Texas A&M-Kingsville.

The Oct. 29-20 sessions will highlight the challenges and opportunities of balancing ranching and wildlife resources. Registration is required and free. Visit krirm.tamuk.edu/symposium to register and download the complete agenda.

Correction

The Texas Primary Care Consortium sent an open letter to Gov. Greg Abbotts to ask him to take a variety of steps to increase residents’ access to health care. Last week’s column incorrectly reported the organization’s name.

For more stories like this, see the Aug. 19 issue or subscribe online.

By Chris Cobler, board member and past president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. [email protected]

0 Comments

Related News

We’re global now

We’re global now

No matter how hard we try, we really can’t avoid one another. We live in a world where what takes place somewhere else on the globe has a very good chance of affecting us, along with many others. The pandemic, of course, is a useful – if sobering – example. A virus...

read more
Texans urged to roll up their sleeves

Texans urged to roll up their sleeves

Gov. Greg Abbott and other Texas leaders are rolling up their sleeves to get the COVID-19 vaccine and to encourage the public to follow suit. “I will never ask any Texan to do something that I’m not willing to do myself,” Abbott said before getting vaccinated at a...

read more
State resumes requiring job searches to get benefits

State resumes requiring job searches to get benefits

Texans receiving unemployment benefits will need to show an active effort to find a job starting Nov. 1. The Texas Workforce Commission suspended the requirement in March as the pandemic started. More than 3.6 million have filed for unemployment relief since then,...

read more
Accusations rock Attorney General’s office

Accusations rock Attorney General’s office

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is battling back against seven top aides who accuse him of bribery and abuse of office. The aides delivered the accu­sations in a letter to the agency’s human resources director. The Austin American-Statesman and KVUE-TV obtained and...

read more
School year brings an Apple for students too

School year brings an Apple for students too

Students across Texas returned to campuses last week as schools and universities scrambled to put into place new lesson plans that best accommodate a pandemic. For many school districts, this meant greatly expanding the technological resources of their students to...

read more
This is a time of testing for all of us

This is a time of testing for all of us

A few weeks ago, The New York Times ran an article noting that with the U.S. preoccupied by the coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests, and massive unemployment, “its competitors are moving to fill the vacuum, and quickly.” Russia, China, North Korea, Iran....

read more
Trade enforcement creates American jobs

Trade enforcement creates American jobs

Roughly one in four American workers has filed for unemployment since the pandemic began. To stem the historic tide of unemployment, policymakers quickly put together a series of legislative packages to help companies keep their workers on payroll. An often-overlooked...

read more