Court Security Experts Study Mi. Video System


Chief Judge Wendy Potts in Pontiac, Mi., usually faces a full docket and an empty courtroom, says the Los Angeles Times. With the use of a high-speed digital video-conferencing system, Potts can see the accused whose cases come before her and they can see her inside from their jail cells across the street. This virtual hall of justice is one that experts say is among of the nation’s best in using technology to grapple with rising concerns about security and costs at the nation’s courts. “The less you have to move a prisoner, the more secure it is for us all,” Potts said. “Security and safety is on the minds of everyone at the courthouse these days.”

After the courthouse killings in Atlanta and the slayings of a federal judge’s husband and mother in Chicago, officials from around the nation have come to southeast Michigan to see how the Oakland County system is working. Launched in November, the OakVideo project is running in three district courthouses, five circuit courtrooms, nearly all holding facilities, and all of the county prosecutors’ offices. The heart of the $6.7-million project is a grid of high-speed data lines – an estimated 680 miles’ worth – that link the computers of every city, village, and township building in the county. The technology can’t be used for cases involving minors, mental health evaluations or examinations, or the actual trial. Most criminal arraignments are conducted by video conference. Judges can also use it for criminal pleas, preliminary examinations, expert testimonies, pretrial motions, and sentencing for misdemeanors.”If this were a trial, and I was trying to cross-examine someone’s testimony, how can I intimidate you by camera?” asked Stephen Kale, a defense lawyer. “How can I tell if you smell of alcohol or something else? It definitely affects the adversarial process.”


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