In another sign that normalcy is returning to Parker County in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Parker County criminal justice system successfully completed its first jury trial proceeding since March, 2020.
On Monday, 415th District Judge Graham Quisenberry summoned a jury panel to the District Courts Building in Weatherford to hear a felony drug offense. A 12-person jury was selected, heard evidence, and returned a verdict Tuesday sending a defendant to prison.
“Going into trial, we weren’t sure what to expect from the jury panel,” District Attorney Jeff Swain said. “It isn’t like going to a restaurant or to the grocery store, which are voluntary choices. When you get a jury summons, you’re required to appear, unless you are excused. The feedback that we got on behalf of the community from those who were summoned was that they were ready to get back to having trials. We’re so grateful that we are finally at this stage of the process when the criminal justice system can start getting back to normal.”
Jamie Rena Haney, 37, of Fort Worth, pled guilty to possession of less than a gram of oxycodone on April 13 and elected to have a jury determine her punishment.
On March 13, 2020, Parker County sheriff’s deputies had found two oxycodone pills, a marijuana pipe, and a methamphetamine pipe during a search of Haney’s vehicle during a traffic stop. Haney had prior convictions for burglary of a habitation, evading arrest with a vehicle, four thefts, and a couple of other misdemeanors.
Jurors heard evidence Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning before reaching a verdict with a two-year prison sentence around lunch time on Tuesday.
“This was not an exciting case, but we were excited to get back to trying cases,” said Assistant District Attorney Abby Placke, who tried the case with Assistant District Attorney Mallory Vincent.
“Our criminal justice system cannot function properly without jurors coming into court to hear cases,” Quisenberry said. “We need jurors to resolve cases when the parties are unable to reach an agreement. The right to a jury trial is enshrined in both the Texas and United States constitutions. As a judge sworn to uphold the law, I am proud that we can, once again, afford the litigants here in Parker County the rights to which they are entitled.”
The trial was Vincent’s first in Parker County after joining the District Attorney’s Office in January.
“With her experience as a prosecutor in the human trafficking section at the Texas Attorney General’s Office and in the Bexar County District Attorney’s Office, Mallory is a great addition to our staff,” Swain said.