City rules say you can't smoke in restaurants, on the River Walk, or during Fiesta. But you can smoke inside the Bexar County Justice Center.
The News 4 WOAI Trouble Shooters uncovered a loophole in the city’s ordinance that allowed the county to keep its smoke room open for jurors.
But if you're a smoker and want to take advantage of the smoke, you only have a few weeks to do it. County leaders and judges have come to an agreement that the smoke room is outdated and unhealthy. And now there are plans in place to shut it down.
Jacque Petterson had no idea the smoke room even existed until she was called for jury duty back in 2005. Several health conditions that are aggravated by tobacco smoke kept her from serving on a jury that day.
"I had to get the judge to come out in the hallway and I had to explain to him, I cannot do jury duty. I can't and this is not right. I should be able to be in here and I want to be able to do my civic duty. And I have no right here because of the smoke,” Petterson remembered.
So, for the last seven years Jacque has been fighting to shut down this room.
"Smoke does not stay in a room no matter how closed it is,” Petterson told us. “You cannot close off the air completely. It doesn't happen. And it travels great distances; from the smoking room, into the jury room, down the hallways. It doesn't stay anywhere close to the smoking room."
City and county leaders listened to Jacque's pleas, but not much was done. That is until she reached out to the Trouble Shooters a few weeks ago.
"Frankly, your story is what brought attention to a large number of people and indirectly brought it to my attention,” Judge Jason Wolff said. “The main question I had was if that room wasn't successful with keeping that smoke where it's supposed to be, than that was a problem."
Judge Wolff and Judge Raymond Angelini sent a letter to Bexar County leaders earlier this week asking them to support a plan to get rid of the smoke room.
Julieta Schultz, Chief Bailiff for the Central Jury Room, has been working on that plan for a while. She says, despite there being a separate ventilation system for the smoke room, smoke is still getting out and affecting other jurors.
"Currently, the plan is to replace some of the tiles and freshen up the room. Try to get that smoke smell out of that room,” Schultz explained.
In the future the smoke room will be another area for jurors to sit and work or watch tv. Schultz is also working a plan to give smokers a special place to go during their breaks. Work should begin in the next few weeks.