High Tech Courtrooms
In Orange County, Florida, the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court has a high-tech Court #23. Courtroom #23 has an evidence presentation system, internet access, and remote broadcast, real-time court reporting, desktop technology, plasma display monitors, video annotation, video conferencing, digital court reporting, computer legal research, advanced audio systems, touch screen technology as well as a wireless network. The integrated high-tech courtroom enhances performance and presentation using technology. The evidence presentation system includes “1) a digital document camera to view documents, photographs, x-rays, 3-D objects, etc.; 2) a video cassette recorder to play standard VHS tapes; 3) an audio cassette player to play cassette tapes; 4) an illustrator tablet and touch screen monitor for the attorney to mark on projected documents and/or images; 5) a touch screen monitor for the witness to mark on projected documents and/or images; 6) a visual image printer to provide instant photo-quality print output of all presentations; 7) laptop connection for computer generated demonstrations; and 8) touch screen controls for easy local and remote operation” (Courtroom 23, n.d., p. 1).
Commonly referred as the ICE Cart (Inexpensive Court Evidence Cart) a lower cost model of more expensive ones on the market, it still functions with many capabilities.
“The Ninth Circuit’s unit includes the following equipment/features”:
• Projector – Toshiba TLP-T721U
• Document Camera – Toshiba TLP-T721U
• DVD player – Samsung DVD-V2000
• VHS player – Samsung DVD-V2000
• Whiteboard – Dry-Erase Contact Paper
• Laptop Connection
• Audio Recorder – Terapin MCR-TX3300 MP3 Recorder
• Sound System – Klipsch 75 Watt Speakers w/Subwoofer
• Wireless Audio – Nady 401 Quad unit
• Audio Mixer – ROLLS RM65 Hexmix 6 Channel Mixer
• Cart – Apollo Multimedia Projector Cart
• Rack – Middle Atlantic DR12
• Mesh Cover – Polyethylene Extruded Mesh XV1347
• Nuts, Bolts, Jacks, Plastic Top, Velcro, etc. – Home Depot
Also, the cart has an MP3 recorder, audio mixer, and wireless audio. Though primitive in appearance the cost is $5,600 per unit compared to market stands that range from $18,000 to $30,000 per unit. “In June of 2001, the Court introduced the NOMAD presentation system to the Osceola County legal community. The NOMAD is a very well-conceived and powerful mobile evidence presentation system. It contains many of the same advanced features that much more expensive permanently installed systems in courthouses all over the country. The NOMAD includes the following features.”
• LCD projector computer
• Flat panel display
• Digital document camera
• Wireless keyboard and mouse
• DVD Player
• Multi-media sound system
• Laptop connection
• Network connection
• Audio amplification connection
• Mobile cart system
• Integrated and remote controls
“The system can be moved into any of the twelve courtrooms and setups with full network connectivity within a few short minutes. The mobility and simple design of the NOMAD have provided the Court with the ability to convert all of the courtrooms in the Osceola County Courthouse into a high-tech courtroom upon demand. The NOMAD system cost tens of thousands of dollars less than a fixed\permanent podium and are used in multiple locations. The Ninth Judicial Circuit is the first Court in the country to purchase the NOMAD system, which traditionally has been used mostly by colleges, universities, and other educational centers” (Court 23, n.d., p. 1).
Video Telecommunications Judicial Proceedings
The ability of the courts to hold video appearances for arraignments, motion hearings and evidentiary hearings, which includes judges, lawyers and witnesses are occurring across the United States. Remote video participation has sped up the processes of the court cases thus allowing judges and attorneys to manage cases for efficiently. In the distance future virtual courtrooms will hear criminal and civil cases, hearing rooms will be available for viewing and online internet streaming; jurors will participate virtually; and expert witnesses will be able to testify remotely.
High Technology Courts have used a Courtroom Technology Management System as a user interface control system. Interfacing allows multiple sources to interface with the system. Laptops, document cameras can display text documents, and physical objects, light boxes utilized with the document camera can display X-Rays or transparencies. Also, eye cameras can be used to display large documents, maps or blueprints, DVD/cd players, mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets are similar to a laptop computer, as well as audio and digital video. All evidence presentations, therefore, are controlled by the judge, judicial Clerk and the witness presenting the evidence to some capacity. The judge or clerk can publish to courtroom flat screens either to the witness, jury, and gallery. Also, the volume is controlled by the judge or clerk. Usually, witnesses and attorneys are provided limited functions on the touch screen panel or wireless control panel. The presenter of the evidence could be a police officer, detective or expert witness; laboratory expert can select the source evidence either DVD, VCR, computers, or audio source. Also, the presenter can function the document camera which can zoom, light, focus, automatically adjusting the camera, switch to black and white from a color image and last switch positive and negative schemes. The technology in the courtroom is defaulted so only the Judge, or Clerk publishes evidence to a witness, jury or gallery. The Presenter of evidence can annotate the evidence on the scene by using their finger or stylus, which gives them the capability to draw lines, circles, mark and highlight objects. Part of the function keys for annotation is changed colors and undo the last function or erase. The Judge or Clerk usually are the only persons who can print displays. According to Dixon (2011) who participated in the design and construction of a high-technology courtroom and assigned to the same courtroom as a Superior Court Judge of the District of Columbia and held 11 serious criminal jury trials and afterward jurors surveyed about their impressions of courtroom technology. Overall, 94% of jurors agreed or strongly agreed that the technology improved their ability to serve as a juror. Video displays were LCD projector, 72 x 72 drop-down projection screen, a 5,500 lumen LCD projector, and jurors viewed four 52” diagonal HD flat screen monitors. Annotation monitors display presented evidence, witness screens, evidence camera, laptop connections, VCR, CD, DVD player and courtroom printing, and electronic storage of exhibits all are used in the trials. “Ninety-Seven percent (97%) agreed or strongly agreed that viewing the judge’s instructions on the monitors improved their understanding of the laws in the case and their responsibilities as a juror” (p. 29). When asked about evidence presentation, 97% of surveyed jurors agreed or strongly agreed “With the use of courtroom technology, I could clearly see the evidence presented in the case” (p. 30). Dixon describes an “integrated controller system” controlled by the Judge and the Clerk. Also, the advanced features allow different images from separate sources to be displayed simultaneously. Dixon illustrates this feature, “showing an image from the evidence camera on monitor 1, while at the same time showing on screen 2, using a video from the prosecutor’s laptop. The picture of a still photograph from the defense attorney’s laptop on monitor 3; a limiting instruction in PowerPoint from the judge’s computer on monitor 4; and so on” (p. 30). Though the technology is plausible Judge Dixon describes this feat difficult under normal circumstances. In Dixon’s experience, remote witness testimony and video conferences frequently occur in criminal arraignments and presentments, in status and review hearings, dependency cases and remote language interpretation (Dixon, 2011). Last, monitors are located in the jury box, both the state and defense attorney tables, the judge, witness podium and most all are big screens. All portable, fixed projectors and technology located where the witness – Presenter, judge, attorneys and clerk have access.
E-Courts online platform walks individuals through a series of qualifying questions to help determine whether they are eligible to resolve their violation online. Some of the e-courts have the ability to service citizens with civil infractions, paying fines, electronically file a case or amend and add a file, or obtain a copy of court record all which is done through an Electronic Data Management System (EDMS).
Some jurisdictions already have e-filing for cases and pleadings. Courts are receiving digital files that are input into the document management systems. Citizens may have obtained court documents and forms online, complete and scan the forms back to the court for filing. Still, some courts have tradition filing methods, but also maintain scanning and electronic assistance on site. Attorneys have their online records access as well as access to the judicial automated calendaring system where searching Judges Dockets for availability. Citizens can create and register as a new e-filer, manage their account, and file documents through an e-portal as well as generate reports and make payments for filings submitted via the e-Portal. For example, the State of Florida provides access to multiple counties through E-Portals, and sixty-seven Clerks of Courts throughout the state are accepting e-filing as the norm. Citizens have the ability to upload documents in existing cases or new cases. There are electronic guides to assist residents to submit reports, and E-Filing cases which can be cumbersome over 50 pages, so many courts will still accommodate helping citizens in the courthouse with electronic filing. Last, E-Filing has expanded to E-Filing criminal, juvenile, and traffic cases, as well as many other types of cases depending upon the state and jurisdictions.
Most states and jurisdictions allow citizens to pay their traffic fines online. Citizens just need the traffic ticket number or court case number to pull up their file and make payments. Some courts have many other online services such as bids on foreclosure sales, bid on tax deeds, pay child support, as well as the ability to search official records all with the click of a button. Online courts provide citizens with the capacity to search civil, criminal, probate and traffic court records. Prospective jurors can access online reporting information, parking, and requests for excusal and postponements. Most states include official record searches, notary services, passports and wedding ceremony photo gallery in some jurisdictions among dozens of other services. Court websites can include reports, statistics and financial records of the court. The majority of court web pages have links to other government agencies such as E-Commerce and E-government is very much a part of our world today. The trend is utilized with law enforcement agencies allowing citizens to obtain information from their website, make inquiries and input information.
Future Court Technology
Many of the following technologies adopted in courts throughout the United States some court jurisdictions have aligned their technology in conjunction with law enforcement agencies. Today, it is impossible not to leave a trail of evidence indicating where you are, maybe what you have done because technology is tracking your movements right now. If you are reading this right now, you might be worried what do you mean you can track my whereabouts. Wearable technology such as an IWatch, other Smart Watch or Phone devices, IPADS, or Google Glasses, and Photographs on any of these devices can give the location, date and times. Apps on smart devices whether being used or not are tracking our movements. How many times have we posted photographs to social media? If the device is on it is tracking, but more than that some devices can track movements without being in use. Why is all of these things important, if a person is under investigation all of this data can be obtained and used against you in court.
FitBit, Photographs, and many other apps are tracking your whereabouts. In particular, Geo Tags apply to photographs that a person takes either with their cell phone, camera, Ipad is all tracked. Many times people post photos at locations where they visit or pictures in general. Someone who wants to stalk another person they can, it is very easy. Social surveillance by a geographical positioning system is a new trend. As an investigator it is invaluable, and a criminal it is their window of opportunity. What is important is all of this data is admitted in court. Geotagging is adding geographical identification to photographs, videos, websites and SMS messages. Pictures taken with a cell phone give the latitude and longitude coordinates of your location. Geotagging has an accuracy of within 15 feet. Also, many cameras such as Canon or Nikon, include the same information known as the metadata. It is important to know how to disable geotagging if a person does not want to be tracked but for investigators, it is invaluable information and can be used in court. An example case by Schiffner (2013) one of the most infamous occurrences of cyber casing. “In September 2010, three men burglarized more than 18 homes in the Nashua area of New Hampshire simply by tracking residents’ movements online and, when they were away, broke into their homes and took off with more than $100,000 worth of goods” (p. 1).
Black, N. (2015, Sept). Wearable tech data as evidence in the courtroom. Retrieved from http://www.llrx.com/features/wearable-tech-as-evidence-in-courtroom.htm
Courtroom 23 (n.d.). Courtroom 23 Retrieved from http://www.ninja9.org/courtadmin/mis/courtroom_23.htm
Center for Legal & Court Technology (2015). McGlothlin Courtroom. Retrieved from http://www.legaltechcenter.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Classroom_Mode_Text.pdf
National Center for State Courts (n.d, a.) Court technology framework. Retrieved from http://www.ncsc.org/Services-and-Experts/Technology-tools/Court-Technology-Framework.aspx
National Center for State Courts (n.d., b.). National standards. Retrieved from http://www.ncsc.org/Services-and-Experts/Technology-tools/National-standards.aspx
National Center for State Courts (n.d., c.). History of technology standards. Retrieved from http://www.ncsc.org/Services-and-Experts/Technology-tools/Court-specific-standards/History.aspx
Schiffner, B. (2013). Could you fall victim to crime simply by geotagging location info to your photos? Digital Trends. Retrieved from http://www.digitaltrends.com/photography/could-you-fall-victim-to-crime-simply-by-geotagging-location-info-to-your-photos/
United States Department of Justice (n.d.). Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (GLOBAL). Retrieved from http://www.it.ojp.gov/global
United States Courts. (n.d.). Courtroom Technology Manual. Retrieved from http://www.uscourts.gov/statistics-reports/publications/courtroom-technology-manual
Dixon, H. B. (2011). The evolution of a high-technology courtroom. Future Trends in State Courts. Retrieved from http://ncsc.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/tech/id/769
Walsh, J. T. (1998). The evolving standards of admissibility of scientific evidence. The Judges’ Journal. V 2(1).