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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 Haydn Fenton ( 752330 ) <> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:46PM (#10313897)
    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.
  • 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.
  • Re:My job (Score:2, Informative)

    by SlayerofGods ( 682938 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:48PM (#10313925)
    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 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @06:49PM (#10313937)
    Parent is clearly a troll.
  • 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.

  • Not that innovative (Score:3, Informative)

    by powerline22 ( 515356 ) <thecapitalizt@gm ... 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.
  • Re:My job (Score:5, Informative)

    by nm42 ( 310685 ) <> 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 [] 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:21PM (#10314193)
    The article says he plead guilty to kidnapping but not murder.
  • Re:death? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @07:29PM (#10314265)
    The article is wrong. He plead guilty to carjacking and kindnapping but innocent to murder.
  • 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.
  • Re:My job (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @09:13PM (#10315015)
    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.
  • Re:My job (Score:2, Informative)

    by Mr. Slippery ( 47854 ) <{tms} {at} {}> on Tuesday September 21, 2004 @09:14PM (#10315018) Homepage
    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 [] that may have helped shape public opinion.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2004 @01:27AM (#10316310)
    This is a great idea. In some states - such as Pennsylvania - juries are not allowed to take notes! Never mind looking at evidence or getting a transcript.
  • Re:WHAT???? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 22, 2004 @08:56AM (#10317667)
    Exodus 20:13 in my King James Version reads "Thou shalt not kill." What, exactly, is suicide but killing? Killing oneself is still killing. Now, if you break a commandment and then later realize what you've done and how bad it was, Christian dogma says you can confess (depending on your denomination), repent, atone, receive forgiveness for your sin, and still get into heaven. But if the person you kill is yourself, there's no time to repent and atone, so there can be no forgiveness and thus you don't get into heaven.

    If, however, you commit the sin with the intention to go through the motions of confession/repentence/atonement, you're not fooling anyone, least of all God. Every true Christian knows this. Thus it makes sense for a murderer to kill and then decide to confess his crime to the state, knowing he'll be executed for it.

    And remember, Exodus 21:12 says "He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death." Exodus 21:24 is my personal favorite Bible passage: "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot"

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson