Courthouse Construction Prompts Unusual Location for Jury Duty

If you've visited the Brazos County Courthouse recently, you know renovations are under way.

It's made it harder to find a parking place, but that's not all.

Construction noise and work continues near the courtrooms and that has forced judges to look elsewhere.

Jurors were summoned Monday for the trial of Richard Lopez, who's charged with aggravated sexual assault of a child.

But jurors were not called to the courthouse.

Construction prompted an unusual change of venue.

"I thought what? At the Expo I thought something happened out there that we needed be aware of or that they were going to present information about something at the Expo," said Barbara Dott of College Station.

Barbara Dott was one of dozens of people summoned to jury duty Monday not at the courthouse, but the Brazos County Expo.

"It was a full day, I was a high number so thank goodness I got released, fixing to go back to work," said Dott.

"I thought it was an excellent idea there was plenty of room and the facilities are comfortable enough, gosh there's plenty of parking, it beat parking two blocks away and having to walk to the courthouse," said John Price of College Station.

Price was also dismissed from the jury, he told News 3 he'd like to see more court proceedings at the Expo especially as parking continues to be a hassle in downtown Bryan around the courthouse.

On Monday the potential jurors met in a dinning room just feet away from the rodeo arena.

"I think it's great, it's very casual, very laid back, the court staff did a great job explaining what needed to be done, can't say we had a good time, did our civic duty," Price said.

"We were told last week by the contractor that there would be some major work going on and because of that there might be a lot of noise we first tried to get space at the Brazos Center where we held trials before but they were all booked up so fortunately we were able to contact the Expo Center," said Judge Steve Smith of the 361st District Court.

Judge Smith won't be presiding over this trial, but helped coordinate the location.

Basically, there wasn't anywhere else to go.

"The litigants have been very cooperative, the lawyers have and we'll just do the best we can until things are finished," he said.

"Just a little inconvenient, but nothing too bad," said Barbara Dott.

While the trial was originally scheduled to also take place at the Expo, a decision was made Monday afternoon to move it back to another courtroom at the courthouse.

Richard Lopez' trial is scheduled to begin Wednesday morning at the 272nd District Courtroom at the Brazos County Courthouse.

If convicted he could face a sentence of anywhere between probation and life in prison.


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