COVID-19 forcing Taylor Co. courts to adapt

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) — The pandemic has forced a lot of changes for the court system in Taylor County. 

In addition to jury selection being moved to the Taylor County Expo Center, the inside of the courtroom will look different come October. 

In the 350th District Court, Judge Thomas Wheeler has been working with other district courts to rearrange the courtroom to promote social distancing.

“I have used a tape measure more times in the last few months than I have in the rest of my life put together,” said Judge Wheeler. “If you measure out the jury box and the gallery, we can put just enough people keeping everybody six feet apart for the 12-person jury.”

It’s a different look for the courtroom that doesn’t include everyone, at least in person. 

“There’s 12 on a district court jury and there’s six in a county court of law jury,” said Judge Wheeler. “Then we’re going to have the court reporters, and the judge, and the bailiff, and the parties.”

That just leaves the public. Judge Wheeler says they will still be involved. 

“It is a legal requirement called the open courts doctrine, that anybody that wishes to observe can do so,” said Judge Wheeler. 

The public will be able to view each trial on the district court’s Facebook or YouTube page. It will then be deleted after proceedings. 

Court cases with a jury are set to begin again on Oct. 5.


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