Judge Pam Foster Fletcher called in the first jury panel since March, postponed due to COVID-19 concerns and restrictions, Monday, Nov. 2.
According to Fletcher, the jury selection went smoothly and it seemed to work well for both the state and defense attorneys.
Three hundred jurors were summoned to the Palestine Civic Center.
Only 69 of the 300 showed for jury duty. All jurors were screened while in their vehicles, having their temperature taken and answering the standard COVID questions to determine safety. After the screening, 54 were allowed in the civic center. Two were released for exemptions, 52 remained on the panel.
Twelve jurors and two alternates were chosen, represented by 13 women one man. Jury panel members were given face shields and socially distanced. All jurors were required to wear a mask.
During the trial, precautions were taken inside the district courtroom to protect all participants.
The normal jury box was not used and benches in the gallery were removed to accommodate the jury seating. Jurors were seated in a makeshift jury box out in the gallery where spectators are normally seated. The jurors were positioned at least six feet apart and required to wear masks.
Juror chairs were also sanitized each time they took a break and left the room but were instructed to sit in the same chairs upon return.
Judge Fletcher wore a mask whenever lawyers approached the bench to confer over legal matters.
Witnesses, defendant and lawyers wore masks unless questioning or being questioned. After each person spoke at the microphone, Anderson County bailiffs wiped down the microphone and lectern.
Plexiglass was set up in front of the witness chair, the District Clerk and the judge.
Spectators and jurors were not allowed in the courtroom without being checked for temperature and given an armband showing they had been checked and cleared each day.
Two more jury trials have been set for the remainder of the year, scheduled for Dec. 7 and Dec. 14.
Judge jails man for terroristic threat
The trial against Austin Damion Lindsey, 19, for the charge of terroristic threat, followed Tuesday, Nov. 3. Terrorist threat is a third degree felony in Texas, carrying a range of punishment from two to 10 years in Texas Department of Criminal Justice and a fine up to $10,000.
The jury found Lindsey guilty of the misdemeanor charge and sentenced him to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine, both of which were probated for two years. The probation was for two years with no jail time to actually serve or fine to be paid as long as he complies with the terms of probation.
The formal offer from the state was six years TDC before the trial and the defendant refused that offer and opted for a jury trial of his peers which is his right under the US Constitution and State Constitution.
The judge has the ability to determine the terms and conditions of probation and gave Lindsey 30 days in jail as a condition of the probation.
Lindsey, a Canadian citizen living in Frankston, who attended Frankston schools for most of his scholastic career was represented by attorney Stanley Sokolowski. Prosecutors Allyson Mitchell and first assistant Cari Warner represented The State of Texas.
The terroristic threat occurred at Frankston High School May 8, 2019. Lindsey was arrested on May 9, 2019 originally for a class B misdemeanor, but after review by the District Attorney was indicted as a felony.
Lindsey was recorded on another high school student’s cell phone making the threat.
In response to questions from several other students talking about an active shooter situation they had just been given training about at the school, Lindsey stated he would bring a gun to school and kill the people he wanted to kill. The student who recorded the phone call, and another who heard it, testified they thought Lindsey was joking.
Testimony in the trial outside the presence of the jury showed the defendant tested below normal IQ levels and because he had diminished mental capacity he was placed in special education classes while he attended Frankston Schools.
Sokolowski wanted the jury to know that fact, however, Fletcher ruled it would not be admitted to the jury at the guilt and innocence phase of the trial but would be permitted at punishment should Lindsey be found guilty.
Lindsey graduated from Frankston High School with a third grade reading level according to his grandfather and has some inherited family disfunction in the male members in the family.
Cindi Owens, the Principal at Frankston Jr. High, testified about the incident and her knowledge of Lindsey. She also said because of his intellectual disability it could affect his ability to control his behavior.
Owens also testified jail could be harmful to Lindsey because he is easily misled.
All witnesses in the trial said that Lindsey said he was just joking about the statement.
Lindsey did not testify at the trial
The jury returned Wednesday morning, Nov. 4, and reached a verdict within an hour.
The jury had the option of convicting Lindsey of the third degree terroristic threat, or if they thought the facts did not rise to the level of a felony to consider a class B misdemeanor reduced charge of terroristic threat.