January 01, 2014

iWITNESS: How to Take Advantage of Courtroom Technology

Evidence presentation systems can help your case--but first you need to understand how to get permission and then use them.

Lance Bachman

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Virtually every federal courtroom has an evidence presentation system that integrates video displays, computer inputs, digital document cameras, audiovisual (AV) distribution, and an AV input switching control. While some courtrooms use portable evidence presentation systems, many others, including the majority of our courtrooms, now have permanent systems installed. These systems allow attorneys to use a device (like a notebook computer or tablet), together with the court’s digital document camera, to present evidence simultaneously to everyone in the courtroom through a system of liquid crystal displays.

Even though we now provide all of this technology and it is readily available, attorneys still need first to obtain permission to use it from the trial judge. While many judges provide a blanket authorization to use the systems in their initial scheduling or pretrial order, other judges require a specific written motion, requiring the attorney to justify the need for use of the technology. An attorney anticipating a need to use an evidence system for a motion, hearing, or trial should determine, far in advance, whether permission is already given or needs to be obtained.

Although the evidence presentation systems are used most often for hearings or trials, consider whether you can use our technology for other aspects of your case. For example, attorneys have used our technology to allow a person at a remote location to participate in the proceedings via a videoconference. By using a web-based videoconference program, a laptop computer, and a portable WiFi hotspot, an attorney can stream in the outside party, and once connected to the evidence presentation system, everyone in the courtroom can see and hear the outside party. The rule again, however, is to get permission from the trial judge first.

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