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More trials resuming at Brazos County Courthouse

A civil trial is happening in the 272nd District Court this week.
Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 6:03 PM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) -For the first time since February, a trial is under way in the 272nd District Court in Bryan.

Former Texas A&M professor Tarun Bhardwaj is accused of stalking and harassing a student. A jury will decide on his mental health commitment in this civil case. Bhardwaj was involuntarily committed to the state’s mental hospital for a year previously.

The judicial system continues to make adjustments during COVID-19. Court officials say they are taking precautions like wearing face masks and social distancing. Something else you’ll notice at jury duty are scanners that check your temperature.

“We’re doing it as safely as we can," said Judge Steve Smith of the 361st District Court. Smith said they are adjusting from an incident last month. A mistrial was declared in the 85th District Court after the Brazos County Sheriff’s Office transported a COVID positive inmate from Smith’s court with other inmates.

”We had a conversation with both the sheriff and the chief jail administrator and they were very cooperative, they’ve put some things in place... The good news is that both the attorneys and my bailiff were tested. No one tested positive for COVID," said Smith.

“The Judge and the court personnel are doing everything they can to keep everybody safe but there are obviously concerns," said Shane Phelps, a local defense attorney.

Phelps said the current trial had to happen without delay. He has concerns on having people feel safe enough to attend jury duty, particularly under-represented populations. Phelps and other attorneys have told KBTX a big enough representation of the population hasn’t been showing up for jury duty to be selected.

“That is the number one reason we shouldn’t be trying cases right now until we can get a comfort level that people are not going to be exposed... I don’t think it’s worth the risk,” said Phelps.

But Smith said he’s hearing good feedback.

“Based on their reports to us following their service they feel like they’ve been protected and they feel like they’ve done an important job," said Smith.

That current trial is expected to last a few more days. Judge Smith told us they also have trials scheduled for October, November and December.

We have a previous story on the former Texas A&M Professor’s case here.

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