United States Courts
Western district of Missouri
Technology and the Court
Entering the lobby of the courthouse, visitors are greeted by two 42-inch monitors in the lobby displaying the daily docket from CM/ECF along with weather and current news. An announcements page also directs visitors to activities scheduled in the building such as CLE programs or other meetings. Hopefully, the monitors will assist attorneys and members of the public to readily confirm the location and time of hearings and events when they arrive.Once in the new courtrooms, methods of evidence presentation and viewing have been drastically improved. A key change is the addition of monitors in the jury box. Every two jurors will share a monitor which is adjustable for convenient positioning to allow jurors close inspection of documents or video. In the alternative, if a trial attorney prefers to direct juror attention to a big screen, there is a 100-inch projection screen available for use which lowers from the ceiling behind the bench. And in either case, both the attorney and the witness may annotate pictures or documents using touch-screen monitors. When counsel or the witness draws electronically on an exhibit, the courtroom deputy can then print the exhibit as annotated for later use. And annotations by different individuals appear in different colors so as to distinguish who is drawing where.
Evidence may also be presented from a variety of locations in the courtroom, including the evidence cart, attorney tables, the courtroom deputy’s station and the witness stand. The evidence cart provides the most options for connectivity. There are analog connections with audio such as VGA, composite, s-video and digital connections such as HDMI and DVI. There is also a Blu-Ray player, which plays CDs, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, as well as an SD card slot for viewing pictures from a digital camera. With all of these options, attorneys may connect their own laptops directly at the lectern or counsel table. Or they may bring a jump drive to use in the computer inside the lectern or to plug directly into the new, slim document cameras.
The Bond Courthouse is also one of the first, if not the first U.S. courthouse, to have an all-digital audio-visual (AV) system. What does that mean? All of the video is high-definition (HD). On the audio front, digital audio is less susceptible to noise and distortion, and therefore, the new system produces CD-quality audio for better recording. Recordings are saved to the Court’s network for better archiving and safe storage, and recordings can then be sent electronically via e-mail to transcriptionists. Even though an all-digital AV system is in place, the ability to display evidence from non-digital sources such as a VCR or camcorder remains available. Additionally, there are both handheld and headset wireless microphones with an encrypted system (for unintended signal reception outside the courtroom) to ensure confidentiality.
An enhanced interpreter system is another new tool for the Jefferson City courtrooms. The defense counsel table and witness stand have a connection for an interpreter headset that can be used for language interpretation for non-English-speaking defendants. The defendant wears a headset that the interpreter translates into, so only the defendant hears the translation. Then the interpreter translates back to the court when the defendant replies. These same wireless headsets are also available for hearing impaired persons when set to a different channel.
Each of the four courtrooms also feature phone conferencing integrated into the overall system so that “on the record” calls may be recorded. Video conferencing is integrated into the courtrooms with the option to show three different camera views. The cameras are set up to show the judge, the witness and the lectern. In addition to the three cameras, the system has the ability to show evidence from any source over the video conference. And each judge’s chambers is wired for audio so staff members can monitor events in the courtroom.
The new systems may appear overwhelming at first, but recent users and courthouse staff have found the equipment intuitive to use and far more effective than the set-up at the old facility. Attorneys are welcome to make an appointment to test drive the new equipment either in preparation for an upcoming trial or hearing or just for general preparation for the future. To arrange for a training session, please contact Tony Centobie, IT Specialist, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-556-7570.