A trial in Texas was nearly called off over a pair of missing shoes.
Last week, a family violence case was just about to finish up at the Tarrant County Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth. But then, the attorneys working on that case looked up during the final moments to find a deputy walking into their courtroom–and making a beeline for the judge.
Attorney Phil Hall described the scene. “They handed her a paper. The judge just looks down and she just looked puzzled.”
As it happens, one of the jurors on the case was apparently featured on a bit of surveillance footage captured just moments before. In that video, he appeared to be stealing some shoes.
The footage shows a female attorney removing her tennis shoes and switching into heels before inadvertently leaving the original pair on a public bench. Next, a man appears, looks around for awhile, and then shoves the shoes into his backpack.
That semi-surreptitious sneaker shove was enough to warrant a note to the judge on the case in which the juror was serving. Again, Hall noted, “It was all on video. But I couldn’t believe it. The judge simply told us there was suspicion of a juror on our jury caught on video taking the shoes.”
According to local WFAA 8, the juror handed over the shoes after being approached about them, and no charges were filed over the incident. Still, Hall was nervous a mistrial might be called on his case. He said:
There was a real question for us: what do we do? If we had asked for a mistrial, would the judge grant it? The shoes were safely returned and no charges were brought, but it was very strange The judge has been on the bench at least a couple of decades, and said she’d never had anything like that happen in the history of her being on the bench.
In the end, the trial continued–and Hall’s client was found not guilty.
[image via screengrab; video courtesy WFAA 8/Tarrant County Court]