Mistrial in Brazos County after inmate with COVID-19 accidentally brought to courthouse

The inmate that tested positive was being sentenced in the 361st District Court, but transported with an inmate on trial in 85th.
Brazos County Courthouse
Brazos County Courthouse(Mekena Rodriguez)
Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 3:16 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - A mistrial has been called for a case in the 85th District Court after a COVID-19 positive inmate was accidentally transported to the courthouse, according to the Brazos County District Attorney’s Office.

The COVID-positive inmate was on trial in the 361st District Court, but was transported to the courthouse with other inmates including one on trial in the 85th District Court. The Brazos County Sheriff’s Office confirmed an inmate who tested positive for COVID-19 was taken to the courthouse on Aug. 17 and 18. The court’s judge was immediately notified of the inmate’s positive test, it is also noted that the deputy and inmates had all been wearing personal protective equipment.

85th District Judge Kyle Hawthorne called for a mistrial Wednesday morning, according to the district attorney’s office. 361st District Court Judge Steve Smith called for a two week recess in the punishment phase of a trial involving the inmate that tested positive for COVID-19, according to the district attorney’s office.

According to the sheriff’s office, the COVID-positive inmate was tested and placed into quarantine on Aug. 8, due to showing symptoms of the virus. A positive test was received on Aug. 11, and the inmate was then placed in isolation and given medical care. On Aug. 17, according to the sheriff’s office, the inmate no longer had a fever and was no longer showing other symptoms of COVID-19.

The sheriff’s office received a court docket notification that included the inmate’s court date of Aug. 17. Due to a “break down of internal communications,” according to the sheriff, the inmate was mistakenly transported to court on Aug. 17 and 18.

“I regret that our internal process for tracking and sharing information failed to provide transport deputies with critical information,” said Sheriff Chris Kirk in a statement. “They were unaware the defendant had previously tested positive for COVID-19. We have implemented additional procedures to improve communication and prevent a reoccurrence. We are working diligently to manage COVID-19 at the Detention Center. Our response to the pandemic is based on CDC guidelines and correctional best practices that are constantly evolving. We will continue to evaluate and implement new procedures to reduce potential exposures. The safety of our staff, the inmates placed in our custody and the community are our highest priorities.”

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