Gartin Building Courtroom with the Great Seal of the State of Mississippi

Coahoma County to get evidence presentation equipment

July 24, 2002

Coahoma County Circuit Court will soon get electronic equipment designed to make evidence easier for jurors to understand and make evidence presentation quicker and more efficient.

Circuit Judge Albert B. Smith learned Wednesday that the Coahoma County Courthouse in Clarksdale has been approved to receive the electronic evidence presentation equipment.

Judge Smith said Wednesday, "I'm just excited about the time savings and the help it's going to give to jurors to understand and to see more clearly the evidence we are putting in front of them. It's going to save time for the attorneys. It's great."

With the new equipment, jurors will be able to see documents, photos and other evidence displayed on a large screen. The display system eliminates the need to pass copies of documents or photos around to the entire jury panel. Features of the system allow a witness or attorney to highlight text in documents or draw on documents or photos.

Lawyers can plug their own computers into the courtroom system. Boxes of documents can be loaded onto computer disks for quick retrieval.

Audio and video evidence may be played on a VCR, a computer CD player or an audio cassette player, with all the equipment tied into a computerized system.

Electronic evidence display is particularly useful in complex cases that involve many documents and photos.

Judge Smith said, "We've got a lot of complicated litigation here in the Delta."

The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs and the Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts. Equipment and installation are expected to cost about $36,000, said Kevin Lackey, acting director of the Administrative Office of Courts.

AOC provides a 25 percent match to 75 percent federal dollars. The grant is administered by the state Department of Public Safety Division of Public Safety Planning.

Coahoma County Circuit Court will be the sixth in the state to be funded under the project. Circuit Courts in DeSoto, Harrison, Jefferson, Lee and Rankin counties in recent months received electronic evidence presentation systems as part of the grant program.

Lackey said a time for equipment installation has not been established.

Judge Smith said he is eager to get the equipment as soon as possible. He has wanted an electronic evidence display system since he first saw one demonstrated at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nev., a year and a half ago.

Judge Smith said he is interested in getting a similar system for Bolivar County if funding can be found.

"Coahoma had more (case) traffic," Judge Smith said. "I'm still working on getting it in Bolivar County too."