August 6, 2020

Travis County Justice of the Peace Nicholas Chu to Hear the Nation’s First Criminal Jury Trial via Videoconference

On August 11, 2020 at 8:30 a.m., Travis County Justice of the Peace Nicholas Chu will hear the nation’s first binding criminal jury trial via videoconference. In May 2020, Collin County, Texas used videoconferencing to try the nation’s first summary jury trial, a proceeding whose jury verdict is non-binding to the parties.

“This pandemic has forced the Travis County judicial system to make creative and technological adjustments in order to better serve our constituents,” said Judge Chu. “Tuesday’s criminal jury trial via videoconference is a small step that will provide guidance to the other courts in Travis County and throughout the nation.”

The trial will be a class C misdemeanor traffic ticket case with a maximum punishment of a fine only, if convicted. Working closely with Travis County District Clerk Velva Price, Travis County has summoned 30 jurors for jury duty. With assistance from the Texas Office of Court Administration, Travis County will provide loaner equipment to jurors who do not have the adequate technology to sign-on and participate in the videoconference.

“I want to thank the Texas Office of Court Administration and the Travis County District Clerk for their assistance as we developed a model that provides people with an option for their constitutional right to jury trial, all while keeping participants safe and healthy,” added Judge Chu. “It is my hope this landmark trial will ease any safety concerns and inspire other potential jurors to answer when called for jury duty.”

Both litigants are represented by attorneys and have agreed to participate in the jury trial via videoconference. Court rules prohibit the judge and litigants from discussing the facts of the case before the trial has concluded. The trial will begin at 8:30 a.m. and will be livestreamed. Members of the public can view the trial proceedings at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBSagYxuJuWWle9hCvSDm1g.

A multiple day civil jury trial via videoconference is scheduled in Bexar County in late August after Judge Chu’s trial.