Pike County Circuit Court gets electronic evidence presentation equipment

October 8, 2002

Pike County Circuit Court is getting an electronic evidence presentation system.

Installation is expected to begin Oct. 21 in the main second floor courtroom in the Pike County Courthouse in Magnolia.

Fourteenth District Circuit Judges Mike Smith and Keith Starrett said the evidence presentation system will benefit jurors and lawyers and will speed up evidence presentation.

Judge Smith said, "I can see where it would just really expedite the trial of a case, particularly where you have a lot of exhibits. We are really looking forward to it."

Judge Starrett said, "It will save time and money and give jurors a better view of the evidence."

With the new equipment, jurors will be able to see documents, photos and other evidence displayed on a large screen. Features of the system allow a witness or attorney to highlight text in documents or draw on documents or photos. Audio and video evidence may be played on a VCR, a computer CD player or an audio cassette player. All the equipment is tied into a computerized system. Lawyers can plug their own computers into the courtroom system.

A computerized presentation system minimizes handling of paper in a trial. Thousands of pages of documents can be easily stored, retrieved and displayed.

Starrett said, "It will save a lot of time. Instead of having to stop the trial and pass an exhibit around, you can put it on the screen. Photographs are on the screen where you can talk about them and highlight them."

Smith noted that the photo display feature will be particularly useful in criminal trials. "We have a lot of pictures in criminal cases," Smith said.

Starrett said, "It will give jurors access to a lot more demonstrative evidence. It will allow lawyers to better present their cases."

Starrett said the new system will provide a cost savings to the litigants as well as to the county. Litigants benefit by not having to provide the equipment. In the past, lawyers who used computerized evidence presentation brought their own equipment. The county will save money because trials will move faster.

Wiring for the equipment is already in place. Starrett said renovations of the courtroom earlier this year included preparing it for electronic equipment installation.

The equipment and installation is expected to cost approximately $42,878, said Kevin Lackey, acting director of the Administrative Office of Courts. The Pike County Board of Supervisors provided a 25 percent match to federal grant money.

The grant is administered by the state Department of Public Safety Division of Public Safety Planning. The vendor is Jefferson Audio Video Systems Inc. of Louisville, Ky.

Seven other circuit court courtrooms during the past year have received electronic evidence presentation equipment under the federally funded program. Counties which have the systems are Coahoma, DeSoto, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Lee and Rankin.

Smith said that his next goal is to get real-time transcripts. He expects to have that within a year. The court is seeking grant money to help pay for that project.