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The Courts Government News Technology

Order in the e-Court! 286

theodp writes "Every word spoken in the e-Courtroom where Branden Basham is on trial for his life appears immediately before the judge on a computer screen. There's a flat-screen monitor between every two seats in the jury box, a witness-box monitor with touch-screen features, and large-screen monitors for public viewing. Lawyers say e-Courtrooms help reduce trial time by making evidence display and tracking documents more efficient. 'It made the Chadrick Fulks' case three to five days shorter,' said an Assistant U.S. Attorney, referring to Basham's co-defendant, who plead guilty and was sentenced to death."
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Order in the e-Court!

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  • by michaeltoe ( 651785 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:35PM (#10313793) Journal
    In fact, while we're at it, let's just put the whole thing up on a Fox News Poll... no better justice than majority!
    • by Ayaress ( 662020 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:42PM (#10313863) Journal
      It doesn't sound very brillian to me. We already have a court reporter typing every word said in the trial into a computer shorthand. It's really the next logical step to wire that computer into monitors everybody can see.

      I was on a jury (case of four teenagers breaking ~1000 mailboxes in four counties along the Dixe/Dort Highway. Biggest waste of three days in my life) a few years ago, and you'd be suprised how many times the proceedings had to be inturrupted because a lawyer, the judge, or the jury couldn't hear what was being said clearly. Every time, the court reporter had to stand up and read the last few things that were said. This would sometimes happen two to three times an hour.
    • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:43PM (#10313869)
      You make it sound like the technology described in the article is a bad thing. But the right to a speedy trial is guaranteed by the Constitution [cornell.edu], and giving juries a greater level of effectiveness in their ability to review evidence can only be an improvement.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:46PM (#10313908)
        Speedy trial is more about not creating unnecessary delays (ie keeping you in jail for years before you get a trial) rather than rushing through the actual trial itself. We could program a computer to examine the facts, throw in a bit of randomness and end up with a really quick trial, too.
        • by Dachannien ( 617929 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:59PM (#10314521)
          But this technology is intended to increase the accuracy of the information presented to the jury, and will not only help make trials shorter, but will help make them fairer as well. There's no "random element" purported to be added here. And the faster each trial goes, the shorter the wait will be before a person gets their day in court, as well.

          • Faster != Better (Score:4, Interesting)

            by holt_rpi ( 454352 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2004 @01:35AM (#10316336)
            We had a trial practice class when I was in law school, and this guy came in with some snazzy graphics he'd done for a DA's office somewhere... the problem with some of the use of courtroom technology is that juries are likely to believe "oh, this is how it happened" instead of "oh, this is how it could have happened" because they can see it played out for them on the screen.

            I am part of what I hope is a growing number of people who think that "Powerpoint and Technology In the Courtroom" is actually a great leap backwards, and not a step forwards.

            When prosecutors can out-spend a defendant and get super computer graphics to snow the jury into snuffing reasonable doubt, where's the justice in that?
        • Ahh yes, LawBot [the-underdogs.org]. If I remember correctly, there was no right answer to any of it's questions.

          Enjoy your cheap plastic replacement!
    • There was something on UK news today which I found as bad as this; If criminals (the news item mentioned murderers, although I think it may have applied to all court cases) plead guilty they can have a severly reduced sentence, since it will save substancial amounts of money on court cases...

      And I though justice had nothing to do with money.. Boy how I was wrong.
      • It's not just time and expense, the assumption (legal fiction though it usually is) is that if you plead guilty you're taking responsibility for your actions, and therefore have already begun the rehabilitation process.

        What I didn't get is how the guy in the story got death if he pleaded, but I forced myself to read the article and discovered, surprise, surprise, the story didn't get it completely right. The other guy had pled guilty to carjacking and kidnapping, but had insisted that he hadn't killed t
      • by kaiidth ( 104315 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2004 @03:40AM (#10316719)
        That's not actually an entirely new idea in the UK. A mate of mine had a car accident last spring, to which the police was called as they were on private land. At the time of course the police reacted with sublime disinterest (so what else is new, I've seen them react with utter disinterest to armed theft before now), but as they're stressing the 'Better Driving' thing at the moment, he got a letter through the door a couple of weeks later saying, "Either admit your guilt and pay us 200 quid, or we'll take you to court, where the fines could reach 5,000". Obviously no sane being is going to go with the court case option, even if they were in posession of video evidence and ten witnesses... it just isn't worth it.

        I see this sort of practice as cheapening the idea of justice, since it practically commands you to plead guilty and take your (potentially unjustly given) lumps, and to hell with any of that truth bollocks. Plus, it's politically excellent since more people will plead guilty, thus increasing the apparent success of the justice system. And you don't have a right to a free lawyer just because the Crown is threatening to prosecute, which means that if you're a bit strapped for cash you have to decide all on your little own. Sigh.

        The UK desperately needs a bit more backbone, a bit of basic ethics, a bit less obsessiveness on the "ooh! scary nasty criminals are all around!" front, and a change of political direction; this political grandstanding stuff is just not doing it for me, quite frankly. I'm quite aware that criminals exist - I spent the tech recession working in a booze shop so I could hardly fail to have noticed - but I'm also aware that most of the adult criminals I've come across were pretty good pals of the local cops, that the police have no ability whatsoever to control teenage offenders, and that successful prosecution generally only occurs on the most inoffensive of targets. "Innocent men have nothing to fear" could also be stated as "Innocent men have everything to lose, and are therefore that much more frightened". Unfortunately.
    • Once we're using electronics we can put the juror anywhere. Imagine having your drink driving case heard in a Muslim country :-).

  • Lawyers love this (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eander315 ( 448340 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:36PM (#10313803)
    I wonder what they'll have to start charging to make up for the loss in billable hours?
    • Re:Lawyers love this (Score:5, Interesting)

      by masoncooper ( 443243 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:41PM (#10313851)
      There's no loss. Entering the evidence into the trial presentation software takes time too. But usually this is carried out by legal assistants. Our firm uses a product called Visionary that allows us to lay out all sorts of evidence and recall it at a moments notice to present on the secondary display. The cool part is that the software is free, they make their money through processing video. When a deposition comes in, you can request a tape from the court reporting service and then send it to them, they will then encode the entire thing and sync the transcript with the video. The result is the ability to highlight a paragraph or even a sentence in the depo and press play, the secondary display then shows the playback of the person actually saying that. Seeing someone say something has a MUCH greater effect on the judge or jury than simply quoting them.
  • Hm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by FLAGGR ( 800770 )
    I don't know if I should laugh, be sick, "tsk tsk" the story, or contemplate why the hell we really exist.
  • I know.. (Score:4, Funny)

    by captnitro ( 160231 ) * on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:37PM (#10313809)
    ..I'm relieved at the fact that we can get people into the chair more quickly. Texas prisons are going to have a line out the door!

    (Seriously, though, the right to a fair and speedy trial should be helped by this. Not a troll.)
    • Re:I know.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Peyna ( 14792 )
      the right to a fair and speedy trial

      I don't think "fair" is ever mentioned, but many faculties are given that could help to make the trial "fair":

      "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to
  • I second (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:37PM (#10313814)
    that eMotion.
  • My job (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:38PM (#10313818)

    I work for CVision (the closed circuit IP based system used in the article). Frankly, this type of technology has to be stopped. When we're testing the systems in new installations we're ordered to cut back on the gamma and hike up the contrast for the cameras that focus on the defendant.

    The reason? To make the defendant more menacing.

    Cameras focused at the witness stand are lightened up and softened somewhat to make the witness appear more likeable. It's a total joke, fortunately my contract ends in just shy of 3 months.

    Technology is fine, but this is an outright abuse.
    • Re:My job (Score:5, Interesting)

      by TykeClone ( 668449 ) <TykeClone@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:42PM (#10313854) Homepage Journal
      Who's asking you to do that?

      Is it any worse than having the defendant show up with freshly cut hair, a clean shaved face, and in a suit?

      Does the jury ever actually see the defendant sitting there (live - not on TV)?

      • Re:My job (Score:5, Informative)

        by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:55PM (#10313993)
        Is it any worse than having the defendant show up with freshly cut hair, a clean shaved face, and in a suit?

        It is more like the defendent showing up in a suit, but then getting roughed up by the cops to look more ugly when he stands there.

        • Re:My job (Score:4, Insightful)

          by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @08:56PM (#10314912)
          Using the rule of thumb that all technology will be exploited to the max for evil purposes, it could get even worse than this.

          It is likely that the screens will eventually get used to show graphics to support the prosecution's case: "I put it to you that Joe Sixpack took a knife and stabbed Fed six times" becomes an dramatised computer generated video showing a person, recognisably Joe, taking a knife and stabbing Fred - all with nice sound effects etc.

          I suggest that the noble citizens that fill jury benches will be heavily swayed by images like these and will really struggle to tell the difference between something like this and true video evidence.

      • Re:My job (Score:5, Interesting)

        by here4fun ( 813136 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:20PM (#10314182) Homepage Journal
        grandparent: When we're testing the systems in new installations we're ordered to cut back on the gamma and hike up the contrast for the cameras that focus on the defendant. The reason? To make the defendant more menacing.

        parent: Is it any worse than having the defendant show up with freshly cut hair, a clean shaved face, and in a suit?

        Should it matter how the defendant looks? If we have a system where looks matter, then we need a new system. If someone is white and in a nice suit, should that excuse the person, where the judge thinks "oh, he made a bad mistake, i feel sorry for him", but if it is a poor black teen the judge thinks "miserable evil uneducated basturd, you deserve to suffer for being so dark".

        It is like there are two legal systems, one for the rich and one for the poor. One who can afford their own private lawyer, and one who gets a public defender. Let me guess, these monitors will mostly be used with poorer people who can't afford their own attorney to assert their rights.

        • Re:My job (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Jedi Alec ( 258881 )
          heh, just like that "jury of equals" won't be influenced by how someone looks...there've been tons of studies, and certain looks just appeal more to people. to name an example, if for some reason I wear a suit, all of a sudden I get remarks from people about how smart I look this, and how I should dress more often that. These are people who know me quite well, yet somehow they perceive me differently because I wear a suit and tie. Imagine what it's like when dealing with a total stranger.
        • Re:My job (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward
          If we have a system where looks matter, then we need a new system.

          Please tell me you're not that naive. The whole world always has, does, and always will work like this, not just the courts. Study after study has shown that looks influence everything, and you're victim of this too, whether you like it or not.
      • lets see
        defendant done on his own by his lawyer

        tv setup by the court, the people, who are supposed to be impartial

        the prosecuters and judges ARENT supposed to be on the same side...despite what it looks like
    • Re:My job (Score:2, Informative)

      There's no cameras on the defendant or the witness.
      Your not only lying, you didn't even read the articles.
    • Re:My job (Score:2, Informative)

      by datawar ( 200705 )
      Parent is clearly a troll.
    • Re:My job (Score:5, Informative)

      by nm42 ( 310685 ) <nemesis_42@NoSPam.yahoo.com> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:12PM (#10314129)
      Ok, I call BS. I handle litigation technology for a law firm, and have been in many E-courtrooms. There is no camera made to focus on the defendant.
      Take a look here [maricopa.gov] for a real view of the e-courtroom setups.
      The cameras are voice activated, so only the person speaking will appear on the recording. Additionally, these are widely used in civil matters, so there is no "defendant" per se. And a "nice behind-the-scenes" tidbit. The hardware used to capture all of this? Tivo.
    • Re:My job (Score:2, Informative)

      by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 )
      The reason? To make the defendant more menacing.

      This may be a troll, however there was an instance of manipulation of cover photos of news magazines during the O.J. Simpson debacle^H^H^H^H^H^H^Htrial [nodak.edu] that may have helped shape public opinion.

  • by fatcatman ( 800350 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:39PM (#10313825)
    Where's the e-judge? A non-bribable A.I. would go a long way toward achieving proper justice in this country... Bonus points if it's capable of throwing the book (literally or figuratively, I don't care which) at both clients and lawyers bringing stupid lawsuits.
  • death? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:39PM (#10313834)
    His accomplise pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death, the article says. I always thought that the whole point of a guilty plea was to lower the severity of the maximum sentence.
    • Plead guilty to two crimes (kidnapping and assault? assault and carjacking? not sure), but then pled not guilty to the murder of the driver. That's what he got the death penalty for.
    • I always thought that the whole point of a guilty plea was to lower the severity of the maximum sentence.

      Not always, a lot of guilty pleas are entered because people know they have no chance and are ready to give up and get on with their lives.

      Ever paid a traffic ticket without showing up in court? You paid the exact same by pleading guilty that you would have by going to court and the judge finding you guilty.
      • a lot of guilty pleas are entered because people know they have no chance and are ready to give up and get on with their lives.

        Somehow I don't think that was his ploy. Unless he believes in life after death.
  • WHAT???? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:40PM (#10313836) Homepage Journal
    referring to Basham's co-defendant, who plead guilty and was sentenced to death

    Seriously, what's wrong with this guy? Why would he plead guilty without some type of consideration?

    If I'm facing the death penalty, I'd at least take my chances with a trial. There's no point in pleading guilty KNOWING that the state is seeking execution.

    • Re:WHAT???? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by That's Unpossible! ( 722232 ) * on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:52PM (#10313966)
      What if you murdered someone and believe you should face the ultimate penalty for it?
      • What if you murdered someone and believe you should face the ultimate penalty for it?

        It's my understanding that suicide is the honourable thing in that situation. Though I guess pleading guilty and being sentenced to death is a form of suicide.

        Legal disclaimer: it's not my fault if you kill yourself in a situation like this. If you kill yourself, don't come and sue me afterwards.
        • "... referring to Basham's co-defendant, who plead guilty and was sentenced to death ..." -- "... my understanding that suicide is the honourable thing ..."

          *Sigh* When will the death penalty ever be abandoned in the few remaining countries that still have it?

          And IMHO, there's nothing honourable in throwing away something that you don't own; that's why suicide is a crime in many countries.

          • Slightly off topic, but since it's about life and death... [amnestyusa.org]

            Try Nuggets [mynuggets.net], the mobile search engine. We answer your questions via SMS, across the UK.

          • by Jardine ( 398197 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @10:58PM (#10315631) Homepage
            *Sigh* When will the death penalty ever be abandoned in the few remaining countries that still have it?

            Who said I was for the death penalty? The last execution in my country was in 1962. It was removed from civilian law in 1976 and from military law in 1998. I think it's a pointless form of punishment, does nothing to deter crimes, and has resulted in too many innocent people being executed.

            And IMHO, there's nothing honourable in throwing away something that you don't own; that's why suicide is a crime in many countries.

            You don't own your own life? Why should others be allowed to decide when my life ends? I didn't really explain my point very well. If you know you killed someone else and have a choice between killing yourself and going through trial, killing yourself saves the family of the victim the grief of going through trial, saves the state from spending resources on the trial, and saves the executioner from having to live with himself. The goal is to lessen the amount of suffering for everyone involved.

            Just my take on it.
      • Kill yourself, and leave a note behind.
        • I'm not religious, but many religions consider this a sin. Considering they wouldn't be alive to repent afterwards, they may prefer to have this ultimate justice meted out by their peers.
    • Why would he plead guilty without some type of consideration?

      At least he didn't blame the car jacking/murder on guns, parents, violent games or moives, drugs, breaking up with his ex, and/or how he was sad when he dropped his icecream as a little kid.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The article says he plead guilty to kidnapping but not murder.
    • According to the article on Fulks, linked from the story here, his case actually went to trial and his guilt was decided by a jury. From the way I read it, it seems as if he only pleaded guilty to carjacking and kidnapping -- neither of which (to the best of my knowledge) is a capital offense. I don't know if the article is written poorly or if it just neglected to say that he was being tried on murder charges, but that's the way I read it.
  • by rackirlen ( 749169 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:43PM (#10313870) Homepage
    I really don't think I want to be judged on the skill of my lawer in photoshop and powerpoint...

    Seriously, powerpoint is one of the things that NASA reports have blamed for the lack of attention to some details... I really think that the old, hash though paper way keeps the legal system more secure from tampering... (as much as it can be anyhow)
    • It's your lawyer's job to pull the important details out of the quagmire of irrelevant junk.

      If he can't do that, you are doomed anyway.

    • Hi. I write government software and used to work for the Department of Criminal Justice Services of NY State. The point of electronic forms is not to take the place of paper, but to make it immensely more accessible. Right now, if you want a fingerprint card from the 1960s to test against a print you found at a crime scene, you can pull up a digital version of it with a ton of advanced search and detection algorithms in minutes. Or, you can request the physical card and receive it in a few daysdays. The system preserves BOTH, because it doesn't want the hassle of worrying about the possibility of digital tampering, the one is frequently checked against the other. Still, most everybody uses the digital records, because you can't perform a keyword search on a thirty page deposition if it's lying in a stack on your desk.

      I will say this, though...the complexity of the digital system, the number of off network systems and password lockouts, etc, means that it's actually MUCH easier to fake a paper document than a digital one. Seriously...there's a bunch of low income college interns walking the stacks of the central file office, doing pulls and purges, and the security is not loose but not tight, either. Anybody can pull up a typewriter, write out a completely new arrest card, stick in a fake photo, and bam! Bye bye arrest record. When I worked there, we had a guy who after working for two weeks was removed because he had an arrest record nobody knew about. He didn't do anything funny in the stacks...but if he'd wanted to, he had two whole weeks to pull it off.
  • by Hobobo ( 231526 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:43PM (#10313872)
    I don't see anyone would be up in arms about this. Keeping track of evidence and testimonies, paying attention is difficult, to say the least, for individuals with no legal training. A method of keeping track of evidence to help juries make reasoned decisions will lead to more fair trials. Additionally, resolving issues faster is in the interests of everyone involved: the defendant, the plaintiff, and the jury. The only ones who lose are lawyers who charge by the hour!
    • Getting things done faster would allow more to be done; a lot of cases are ignored because there's not enough time to do them. Attorneys would probably make more money if the legal system were more efficient.
  • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:49PM (#10313940)
    That was when using a 2GHz CPU. Now if we used a dual 3GHz CPU with a better graphics card, the whole trial could be over in 15 seconds.
  • Big deal... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    A trial is becoming a more rare occurance in U.S. District courts. Most judges now use summary judgments to knock out cases before they even get to trial. It's easier, cheaper, and clears the dockets faster. Most cases are won in pre-trial motions where technology doesn't really matter.

    An aside: in the rare event a case does make it to trial, the new technology doesn't change the fact that all a trial is is just two conflicting stories of the same event. The lawyer who can tell the story better, with more
  • by Thunderstruck ( 210399 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:52PM (#10313965)
    Technology in the courtroom is great up to the point where we are called to function without it, and find we are unable to do so. For example, imagine tryng a murder or rape case without the use of DNA evidence. The defendant may have confessed, and performed the act in front of a nun and two priests... but the jury expects expensive DNA testing, and you cannot get a convition without it.

    Likewise with courtroom technology - When lawyers and jurors are over-used to the presence of touch screens and video equipment, what will they do when called to a courtroom in rural South Dakota that has barely the budget to keep the furnace running?

    Also consider that, where human beings are doing the work, someone is ultimately responsible for a mistake. Court reporters and Notary Publics post bonds and can loos big money if they make a mistake. When is the last time your software vendor assumed liability for a computer crash?
    • The involvement of DNA in trials is overrated and blown completely out of proportion by the media. What does DNA evidence prove in most cases, other than that a person, or something they might have come in contact with ended up in a particular location? Often times it's a small part of the whole of evidence. It's also very expensive and is not used in the majority of cases, even those involving murder and/or rape.
    • The defendant may have confessed, and performed the act in front of a nun and two priests...

      I read that as "performed the act with a nun and two priests" and immediately thought "no surprise there, what with today's Catholic church...."

  • phoning it in (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:02PM (#10314053) Homepage Journal
    "Confronting your accuser" and "facing a jury of your peers" works both ways. Human communication is extremely high bandwidth, a gestalt of not only extremely high resolution sights and sounds, but also smells, odd as that might be to consider. In-person communications don't have the distracting "grids" that communications technologies impose on the experience, or other distracting problems like color curves and transmission glitches. Then there's the selection of subject of the communications: you have to look at the cropped content the recorder sends you, not at the subject's twitching foot, or your neighbor's incredulous face. And rather than face a camera to compose your message, you face another person, who's facing you.

    People are not nearly sophisticated enought to ignore the noise introduced by these technologies, and to notice the edited experiences they ignore. Does "can you hear me now?" mean anything to anyone? We can barely use these technologies in a cooperative conference call, with little more than "where should we meet for lunch?" on the line. It's unconscionable that people's lives are on the line with these technologies in the mix.
    • Re:phoning it in (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dasmegabyte ( 267018 )
      Nice paranoia, really, and good use of the word "gestalt," but when evidence moves from "over there on that table" to "right in front of my face," I am able to make a more informed decision as a juror.

      When I don't have to wait a half hour while a bailiff goes to get the murder weapon because I can view it in 3d without disturbing the evidence, I'm making the trial move more fluidly.

      When I can replay the witness' testimony, instead of merely remembering it, and I can detect that moment of hesitation that J
      • Right - and television will revolutionize education. I'm all for keeping recordings of all proceedings for on-demand replay, for the duration of the proceedings. But this tech is supplanting the live confrontations, precisely because it's easy. Sending a person, even a murderer, to their death, should be hard.
  • Not that innovative (Score:3, Informative)

    by powerline22 ( 515356 ) <thecapitalizt@gm ... 926.com minus pi> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:04PM (#10314071) Homepage
    To be honest, they are using technologies that have been in use in schools and many other places for a long time. It looks like most of what they are doing is letting everyone get a better look at the evidence by aiming a camera at it, and networking the court's stenographer. This kind of stuff isn't really newsworthy to me, as we've been using the same kind of technology at my high school for over four years.

    However, at least they're providing a users manual for the thing. I've seen quite a few teachers waste time with technology that they don't know how to deal with, and IT people who dont feel like taking the time out to ensure that things are setup correctly in the first place.
  • Theatrics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by linuxwrangler ( 582055 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:06PM (#10314091)
    I've thought for a long time that the entire case should be recorded and then shown to a jury. Both sides can present their best cases and nobody can get away with theatrics.

    Atty 1: "So has your buggering of small animals caused harm to your eyesight making you an unfit witness?"

    Atty 2: "Objection"

    Judge: "Sustained - the jury is instructed to disregard."

    Atty 1: "No further questions"

    Any question/response ruled inadmissable would be deleted - no chance of influencing the jury either intentionally or by accident.

    If the jury pool is tainted or unable to reach a verdict, just seat a new jury and replay the recordings.

    If evidence or judge's instructions are ruled incorrect or inadmissable by a higher court just edit the recording and show it to a new jury. This also eliminates the problem of a witness who dies before a retrial.
    • Great idea.

      I would anticipate objections from lawyers thought, because they wouldn't be able to see the reactions of jurors and modify their presentations in real-time. In well-funded defenses, someone is always watching the jury, and there is much strategizing about how #2 The Soccer Mom looked bored during witness X's testimony, etc., and they change their questioning, arguments, etc. as time goes along.

      Also, that would be one helluva editing session..."Your honor I move that the 16.5 seconds between

    • Is to prevent tampering. I mean it sounds like a good idea on the surface, but it would introduce the possibility that the jury saw an incorrectly censored version of the events. I mean the events will be censored, the system is all about that, what happens if someone censors something they shouldn't to help one side or the other?

      When the jury is in the courtroom, that's just not possible. They'll know if someone is trying to play fast and loose and claim something wasn't said since they were there.

      Not sa
  • Good Lord! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zerocool^ ( 112121 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:16PM (#10314157) Homepage Journal
    Plead guilty and was sentanced to death?!?

    I dunno, I tend to be very anti-death-penalty. But, when someone comes into the court room and tries to get off on a technicality, or convince the jury to reduce the charge to manslaughter, or whatnot, I think we'd be more likely to hand out a death sentance.

    When someone walks in and is like, "Yes, I admit I did it", how does that work? Thank you for saving the taxpayers lots of money by not going through a trial, and thank you for being upfront and honest about your crime; now, die!

    It's not punishment, it's prevention, right?

    • I tend to be anti-death penalty, but like you, I believe in judicious and application of the death penalty, with extreme discretion on the part of the judge and jury.

      That having been said: if I were genuinely guilty of a crime, and I were convicted given a choice between death, and life in prison without possibility of parole -- I would choose the former. For people like me, the death penalty would be a mercy. Perhaps this man was like me.
    • Does anyone read the earlier comments in a thread anymore?

      Its already been stated above that he pled guilty to carjacking and kidnapping, but the death penalty came from being found guilty of both those charges *and* the charge of 1st degree murder, which the defendent had pled not guilty to. Basically he claimed he did everything but actually kill the victim, blaming that on the other defendent. However, nobody believed him.
  • I am concerned about the impact of this technology on people's ability to understand the word as it is said in a courtroom. IANAL, but something about this really bothers me.

    As we all know with our email communications, the meaning of a joke is easily lost when we send it to someone without the benefit of context. I have been threatened with severe beatings from people who did not know I was kidding because they could not see my body gestures change and could not hear a difference in my inflection. There i
  • Great advertising slogan if this system is running on windows.

  • by ShatteredDream ( 636520 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:54PM (#10314481) Homepage
    Cut the welfare budget by 50% at a minimum and transfer the money over in each state to building more courts, hiring more prosecutors, judges and public defenders (good ones) and pass laws requiring the police to prioritize all property crimes above anything specious like drug crimes. Why? It'll kill two birds with one stone: slow trial dockets and much of the poverty in America.

    What I am talking about isn't the shrill left wing bullshit of "OMG they want to lock up all the poor people" but rather a strict libertarianization of Giuliani's "Broken Windows" enforcement program. The idea is that you prosecute all minor property offenses and you treat even something as simple as an inner city teen stealing an inner city child's bike as a "gateway crime." It does two things: tries to nip the problem of repeat offenders in the bud by showing them the law always applies, and it shows the poor that the law can work for them just like the rich.

    Without strong property protections, the poor don't have an incentive to believe that hard work really pays off. For every cop that genuinely believes that they have a moral imperative to protect that inner city single mother and her kids' property, there are probably 5 that feel that it's "not worth it the trouble to the tax payers." To which I, as a voting Libertarian, have to ask, "then WTF am I doing paying your salary and letting you hide behind a badge?" Seriously, sometimes with this kind of attitude I think we'd be better off in most areas in America with firing 90% of the cops and letting the average law abiding citizen own military-grade infantry weapons and waste any mofo that tries to steal from them. As Heinlein said, an armed society, is a polite society.

    Seriously, just cut the welfare programs, gun control laws, let people use force to defend their property and make the cops accountable for when they don't do a damn thing to take down petty property rights offenders. Within a few years, the poverty in much of the urban areas in America will sharply decline, along with the crime rates, especially the violent crime.
  • Judge Ito: "Defense, you may cross-examine the witness."

    atty: "Denny Crane!"
    Witness: "What?"
    atty: "Denny Crane."
    Witness: "Did you ask me a question?"
    atty: "Denny Crane!"
    Witness: "What?"
    atty: "The defense rests...Denny Crane."

  • This isn't new (Score:2, Interesting)

    Last year I went to a law firm for work experience, and I got to go to criminal and family court a couple of times. It was a pretty low-tech town I was in for that, but the courtroom still had a video-witness plasma screen mounted on either side of the room and rather encompassing mics so the lawyers could talk to the witness.

    This was just a local trouble but they were still using the interactive/plasma screens for witness protection, so I wouldn't be surprised at all that these guys are being video-tria

  • RTFA (Score:4, Informative)

    by wan-fu ( 746576 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @08:40PM (#10314819)
    A lot of people seem to have gotten their panties in a bunch about the right to face your accusser, etc. Please RTFAs. This isn't some system where the jury is in one room, the judge is some other location, the attornies in their office, etc. This is an electronic system that is put in place inside the courtroom to make proceedings faster. The fundamental system is unchanged.
  • by serutan ( 259622 ) <snoopdoug AT geekazon DOT com> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @08:45PM (#10314849) Homepage
    I've long believed that an important step toward greater justice and less waste of time would be to forbid attorneys from appearing before the jury. Questions to witnesses should be submitted in a way that the jury neither sees nor hears the attorney. It's important for the jury to know the questions and to see and hear how the witness reacts and responds, and how the accused reacts. But there's no need to let the lawyer do their song and dance, putting spin on questions and role-playing how they want the jury to react to the answers.

    Really good lawyers know how to size up jurors, decide which of them to "work on" and play to them individually, knowing that a purely psychological reaction by one person can deadlock the result. Technology like this being installed in courtrooms would make it physically possible to move the lawyer offstage. But I doubt very much that the Johnny Cochrans of the world will let go of their bread and butter merely for the sake of justice.
  • by iamacat ( 583406 )
    ...referring to Basham's co-defendant, who plead guilty and was sentenced to death

    A lot of murderers go free or get convicted of lesser crimes on some technicality. Don't prosecutors realize that a greater overall justice will be served if criminals are encouraged to confess in exchange for a small favor, like no death penalty and a 30 year maximum sentence unless there is an evidence and maybe let the see the sunshine as old men/women?
  • by austad ( 22163 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2004 @01:01AM (#10316206) Homepage
    A doctor goes to court for a malpractice suit. Now he's screwed because dragon dictate didn't understand him:

    He said, "I'm skilled at angioplasty"

    But dragon dictate displayed:

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson