Did Coronavirus Affect Verdict in Houston Courtroom?

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It may well be a first in the changing world we are living in these days.

The loser in a two-week-long Harris County civil jury trial that ended last week now wants a mistrial, claiming the jury “was improperly influenced and operated under a specter of the Coronavirus.”

It is the first known Texas court case where the health scare is being used to try to change a jury verdict.

Jetall Companies, owned by controversial real estate developer Ali Choudhri, had filed suit against the owners of a title company for $20 million. Choudhri claimed they sold him the company. Defendants accused Choudhri of attempted fraud. It took just 37 minutes for a verdict against Choudhri and his company.

Renee Davy, one of the defendants in the trial, called the lawsuit by Choudhri a “shakedown.”

“He uses our legal system and our courthouse to try and manipulate real estate deals. If anybody gets into business with him it’s like fair warning,” Davy said in an interview with Dolcefino Consulting.

In fact, Choudhri and his companies were scheduled to be involved in court battles in at least three different Harris County courtrooms in the same week. 

Davy says Choudhri is abusing the court system to financially exhaust people he is suing and called on judges to take action.

“They don’t let kids bully other kids in school, they take action. It’s the same thing here. And they need to stop it,” Davy said.

The trial lasted days longer than originally expected. On March 18th, 2020, days after the governor’s emergency declaration, Judge Robert Schaffer of the 152nd District Court was talked out of declaring a mistrial by the defendants, who argued they were not rich and would suffer the burden and expense of a new trial.

Two days after the jury verdict, Choudhri’ s lawyers sought a redo, using social distancing as one of their complaints.

“The world has been changed by the Covid-19, Coronavirus, pandemic,” the mistrial motion filed by Houston Attorney’s Pete Mai and John Na claims. “When a state of emergency has been declared, and schools, bars, restaurants and public venues are closed, the jurors could not have avoid the influence to answer the liability questions with a “no” to leave the courthouse and dangerous condition forced upon them by jury service. The trial required the jury to maintain close contact with 13 other members.”

Choudhri has been involved in dozens of civil lawsuits.

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