Jury trials in Texas unlikely until August, commissioners court to limit attendance over summer

William Davis Murder Trial

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Jury trials across the state are likely delayed until August 1 due to concerns over the coronavirus and social distancing. The move was made by the Texas Supreme Court and was laid out Tuesday morning by Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran.

There are some narrow exceptions made, but Moran said that as far as he knew only one has been allowed across all 254 counties.

There are a handful of cases in Smith County that have been affected by this delay. The largest is the capital murder trial of William George Davis, the former CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances nurse accused of murdering multiple patients. Smith County District Attorney Jacob Putman has already said in court he will seek the death penalty.

Davis’ trial has been delayed on multiple occasions, but was pushed back even further due to the coronavirus. It is also facing scheduling struggles due to Davis’ lawyers being involved in a separate death penalty case in Dallas. He is next due for a hearing on June 19.

The trial is before Judge Christi Kennedy, who is in the final six months of her term before retiring at the end of the year. She said in a pre-trial hearing back in May that she is anticipating a lengthy trial for Davis.

In other news, Moran also announced that Smith County Commissioners Court hearings will allow the general public back into the room for the first time since March.

There will be limited seating available and masks will be provided. Moran said that 20 members of the public will be allowed to sit in general seating and then four members of the media would be permitted in the back. Fire Marshal Jay Brooks assisted with determining the number to still ensure social distancing.

Moran said that the issue should not be a huge problem for normal hearings, as rarely there are more than 20 people at the weekly hearings.

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