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High Profile Cases Challenge, Stress County Jury Empanelment Process

At last week’s Hidalgo County Commissioners Court meeting, Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa briefed the court on recent Jury Empanelment process and the collaborative efforts taking place to make jury selection possible for the County Judicial System.

The Jury Empanelment Process is currently facing challenges due to several high-profile cases that are being tried simultaneously at the courthouse. These include the separate murder cases of Monica Melissa Patterson and John Feit.

“Most recently, we have been required to hold additional Jury Empanelments and summon additional jurors to meet the needs of the courts,” said Hinojosa.  “As a result, we have required additional space, additional equipment, and resources, not to mention the time and manpower.”

The insufficient size of the auditorium to fit the hundreds of jurors being summoned, and the lack of computer equipment has put a strain on resources and manpower of the District Clerk’s Office. Among the issues facing the District Clerk’s office are a lack of laptops, surge suppressors, and space.

As a result, Hinojosa and her staff have reached out to other county departments, including Elections, IT, Executive Office, Facilities Management, and the Sheriff’s Office, for assistance. Together they have pulled their resources to achieve a successful jury selection process.

“This is a prime example of how county departments should collaborate to serve our constituency and you should be very proud,” said Hinojosa.

Hidalgo County Judge Ramon Garcia asked Hinojosa how many constituents were being summoned for high-profile cases. Hinojosa explained that in order to select 205 qualified jurors, 900 constituents were summoned.

“It’s tricky fitting all of them into the auditorium, but we have a system of pre-screening and showing videos, so as some are exiting the room, others are entering,” said Hinojosa.

“You and your staff are doing an excellent job, especially with the lack of resources available to you,” said Garcia.

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