to Lederer, the courtroom is an experimental site for testing technology in a trial court environment. Mistakes have been made, he admitted, but that makes it easier for others to learn.
Courtroom 21 uses commercially available, reasonably-priced technology so that state courts can easily adopt what they need. Law school students use Courtroom 21 to practice their legal skills, enabling visitors to see the technology in action. The capabilities of Courtroom 21 include:
- Voice-activated video. Five ceiling-mounted cameras hidden behind smoked-glass domes keep track of trial proceedings. All video shots are projected simultaneously in a five-on-one screen format on the monitors. When someone speaks, the voice-activated camera aims at the speaker and the system projects that image on the largest portion of the monitor.
- Video arraignment and video conferencing. A mock-jail and judge's chambers contain video conferencing facilities for remote arraignment, witness examination, lawyer-to-judge and lawyer-to-lawyer conferences.
- Real-time court reporter transcription. Within seconds of typing court testimony, a reporter's transcription appears on computer monitors for use by lawyers, judges or hearing-impaired jurors.
- High-tech podium. Lawyers can display recorded or real-time televised evidence using either a video display camera or a computer system equipped with a hard-drive, CD-ROM drive and a bar-code reading pen for locating indexed documents and images.
- Individual monitors for jurors. All video evidence as well as any live video is displayed on individual monitors for each juror. Jurors can also view computer animations and graphics - as well as scanned documents - on the monitors.
In addition, Courtroom 21 contains such things as headphones that boost listening capabilities via infrared technology, dial-up and CD-ROM access to legal research, such as Lexis and WestLaw, and capabilities for consecutive translation of up to 140 languages.
Some of the lessons learned in adapting technology to courtrooms include using sound-absorbing material in courtrooms. Hard surfaces can play havoc with voice-activated video systems. Also, courtrooms should not be built on concrete floors because of problems with wiring. Raised floors not only solve cabling issues, they are easier on the feet.
Video appears to be one of the most promising technologies for aiding and improving court proceedings. It could also prove to be quite vexing, according to Lederer and McMillan. Courtroom 21 has experimented with video conferencing using one-quarter of a T1 line for transmission. The costs are reasonable and the video quality is adequate for typical meetings between lawyers, judges and witnesses. Hardware costs - camera, TV monitor and controls - run approximately $40,000 per site, but are dropping, according to Lederer.
How video is used in courts is still being debated. "Lawyers can use video conferencing when they want to negotiate with another lawyer prior to trials," said Lederer. The most likely use of video in court trials will be to remotely examine expert witnesses. "It presents no constitutional problems and is the one area where you can save the largest amount of money and time," he added.
But the use of video in a criminal case is another matter. Lederer pointed out that the defense and prosecution have the right to "confront" witnesses, and state and federal courts have all types of procedural rules that might disbar the use of video in criminal trials.
Then there is the human element. "Is testimony on TV more or less reasonable than live testimony?" asked Lederer. He pointed out that some legal experts believe the only way to get someone to tell the truth is to put them in a courtroom which has a jury in it, and not at a remote location, where they might be tempted to dismiss the importance of the situation - and not tell the truth.
Even video arraignment - considered by some as an excellent way to