taken out over more than a week in the O.J. Simpson case had instead been presented in a single day using animation and using other similar multimedia techniques by an expert witness. There was certainly an example where new techniques for the presentation of technical information would be extremely valuable in not only speeding up the court trial, but also making the information much more intelligible, not only to the jury, but also to all the participants.

Videotaped depositions, which have already been used in a limited number of cases, could be used to preserve the testimony of witnesses that might otherwise get beyond the jurisdiction of the court, who might die or might otherwise be unavailable. And in the whole area of evidence control and retrieval, certainly new technology will be extremely important to make the court system more accurate in the way this is handled.

In corrections, identification technology would certainly do what is most important -- ensure that the right people are kept in and that people who should be able to leave the system are let out and not, as is sometimes the case, through subterfuge or negligence, the wrong people get out.

GT: In rapidly introducing and utilizing the full spectrum of new technologies now available, part of your vision is forging an integrated system where all the pieces are rapidly able to access and exchange the information they need through computer networking. Can you elaborate on this?

Meese: I like to call it a seamless system of information and communication, which is really the opportunity that technology presents to us. It starts at the earliest stage of a criminal case and proceeds all the way through as long as an apprehended individual is in custody or under correctional jurisdiction. And it even goes beyond that because the information is there in case that offender commits other offenses in the future. So the whole idea is to have timely, accurate and effective information that can be used to assist every element of the criminal justice process in an enhanced performance of their task.

Costs certainly are reduced, the ability of individual systems to operate capably are all enhanced, and from the standpoint of the individuals who may come in contact with the law, they have a much more accurate means of identification if they are guilty and a more rapid means of exoneration and release if they are not.

GT: With integration and rapid access to information which only has to be entered once -- in effect creating one giant computer-based justice system -- there are increasing concerns about civil liberties and privacy issues. Is there a guiding principle that can help us work our way through these concerns?

Meese: Yes. The fundamental principle is that your system would not allow into it any information that is already protected as private by any of the elements. But most information is not protected and ... they put it into the system in a different way using a different format, sometimes with different facts, leaving out some and adding others. So the result is you don't have a systematized way of looking at that information. So I would say that the issue is not privacy limitations or civil liberty limitations, but it is technical limitations of not being able to have these things in the same format.

If there were problems of legal access to information, then you have to solve those. You have to decide, "Is this something the system should have or shouldn't have?" But almost all the information we are talking about is already available to each of the elements in the system, but they just never put it together into a systematized way that all other parts of the system can also access.

Blake Harris  |  Editor