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'It's going to take a long time': Jury trials resume in Dallas County with hundreds of backlogged cases

Dallas County jury trials stopped during COVID but resumed June 1. Judges and attorneys say cases are backlogged for months, possibly years.

DALLAS — Judges and lawyers warn it could take years for Dallas County to catch up on backlogged cases in the court system. 

On Tuesday, the first group of jurors showed up at the Dallas County Courthouse since jury trials were halted in March 2020 because of COVID-19.

It has caused a huge backlog of cases.

Defense attorney Allison Grinter said she has 20 cases that need to go to trial now.

"Awful, just awful. I mean you know for an entire year, we haven't had trials,” said Grinter.

Even high-profile cases like accused serial killer Billy Chemirmir have been postponed.

“It will take us a long time to pull them out, but once we can set them for trial, we'll begin to see progress happen,” said Judge Andrew Cooper.

Each district judge will get to select one jury a month.

That means only about 100 criminal cases will go to trial in Dallas County this year, but there are hundreds of defendants waiting.

Judge Tina Clinton said only five cases will be tried in her courtroom this year.

"So for me the priority will clearly be the oldest cases, because that's the only fair way that I can imagine moving cases is the oldest will get priority,” said Judge Clinton.

Trials will be modified due to pandemic

Trials will look different than pre-pandemic in order to ensure social distancing.

Courtrooms will be closed off and jurors will sit in the gallery where spectators usually sit. Witnesses will testify behind plexiglass to the side of the courtroom.

If anyone wants to view the trial, they'll have to watch online.

"Everybody will be safe because we're going to do social distancing, not only in jury selection but also within the trials in the courtrooms. Everybody will be distanced,” said Judge Cooper.

Dallas County said trials will be this way until at least November and if all goes well, they hope to expand and try more cases.

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