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Courts in a variety of jurisdictions are starting to incorporate courtroom technology into the standard courtroom setup. This means different things in different places, and different things from year to year, as advances in technology create new possibilities. As courtroom technology begins to replace the display of documents, photographs, and sketches on easels, a number of experts agree that courtroom technology is both efficient and effective for certain tasks and situations that come up in the course of many trials.
One type of courtroom technology is equipment and software for two-way video conferencing, known in Scotland as Vulnerable/Remote Witness Equipment. This technology allows interaction with witnesses who — for reasons of safety, scheduling, health, or expense — must give their testimony from a location outside of the courtroom. This equipment can make possible the appearance of expert witnesses and other who might otherwise find participation in a trial prohibitive.
Audio and video recording equipment creates a record of the trial that doesn’t require a court reporter. Beyond that, it also provides a fuller compliment of documentation of the trial. Unlike methods that do not use courtroom technology, it becomes easier and cheaper for any number of people to simultaneously review the trial or the evidence.
Document cameras, or visualizers, are able to show three-dimensional objects projected onto one or more screens so that they can be carefully scrutinized by a large number of people and so the images can be digitally recorded. The zooming function allows the document camera to function like a microscope to capture greater detail when necessary. The document camera images can be projected to a large projection screen that everyone in the courtroom can look at. Alternatively, each juror can have an LCD flat screen panel to observe the evidence.
Lawyers may use laptops with touchscreens to present and annotate evidence. This is also reported to make pretrial preparation easier. A whiteboard stationed at the back of the witness box can make it effortless for the witness to use courtroom technology to draw or write on the projected image to demonstrate a point, or elucidate a description. Another form of courtroom technology is a system that creates pink noise during private sidebar discussions to ensure that the jury cannot hear or be influenced by these discussions between the judge and attorneys.
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