Sherman Trial Suspended Due to COVID; Pandemic Trial Observations

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Judge Mazzant has suspended a two week trial in Sherman after a former juror and attorney on the case tested positive for COVID-19.  Here’s what we know so far.

Plaintiff ResMan accused defendant Karya of giving another company unauthorized access to its property management software platform, aiding the third party in developing a competing product.  (Coincidentally, earlier this morning Judge Gilstrap conducted a scheduling conference in a Marshall case where Karya is suing Resman).

Judge Mazzant conducted jury selection last Monday November 2, picked an eight person jury, and the trial began last week. It continued on Monday of this week, but one juror had been excused for reasons unrelated to the virus the previous Friday.  However, on Monday afternoon, the court was notified that the juror that had previously been excused had tested positive for Covid 19.  At some point an attorney working on the case also tested positive.  The court then suspended the trial, asked participants to get tested, and schedule a phone conference with the attorneys for Friday morning (today) to discuss next steps in the case.

Of course it is possible that there have been additional developments that have not yet been made public regarding additional participants in the trial, and to what extent the court has been able to trace the source of the infection – all of which can play a role in determining how long the courthouse is closed or the trial suspended. But at present this is all that’s been made public.

But to my knowledge the jury panel has not yet gone below the six jurors required to render a verdict, and Judge Mazzant has not declared a mistrial, so it is still possible that the case could resume, rather than starting from scratch with a new jury.

Trials in the Pandemic

The Eastern District of Texas has conducted 20 jury trials since resuming in person jury trials in June, with eight of those taking place in the Sherman Courthouse with Judge Mazzant.

According to news reports, virus cases are spiking in Texas, and specifically in North Texas, which includes the larger counties making up the Sherman Division. Dallas County, adjacent to the Eastern District but containing a substantial portion of Plano, which is in both districts, set a record for new cases this week, with a little over 1,400 on Tuesday.

The vast majority of citizens of the Sherman Division reside in Collin County. But I can’t tell you how many current or new virus cases there are in Collin County because on Monday of this week the Collin County commissioners court voted to remove that information from the county’s website, and refer to the state’s website, which reflects only that Collin County now has had over 21,000 cases (that’s total, not active), and Grayson County, where the court sits, has 3,200.

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As an aside, here’s a picture of us after voting earlier this month with our sons Grayson, Collin and Parker. (Parker was a mistake – he was supposed to be Denton but all those counties are the same shape and we accidentally picked the name of the square county west of Fort Worth, instead of square county north of it. That’s our story anyway, and so far, he’s buying it. He’s just happy not to be Palo Pinto Smith).

Well, when you stop reporting the number of current and new cases, and refer me to a page that doesn’t provide them either, I get intrigued why you might be doing that.

To get the trends you have to do a little digging into the spreadsheets posted elsewhere on the state’s website. Looking at those I can tell that the number of active cases in Dallas County has doubled in the last month. But Collin County’s have doubled in the last two weeks. Now I understand why the commissioners deleted the current case information from their website.

By contrast, the current case count in Harrison County, which is the urban part (no, seriously, it is) of the Marshall Division is 78, down about a third from where it was two weeks, and almost identical to where it was a month ago.

Put on your masks, y’all. It’s about to get bumpy.