Cleveland courtroom gets electronic evidence display equipment

May 9, 2003

Bolivar County Circuit Court next week will get electronic evidence presentation equipment.

Installation of the computerized audio and video display system in the courtroom in Cleveland is expected to be done on May 14 and 15, said Circuit Court Administrator Rebecca Cochran.

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.A projection feature allows attorneys presenting evidence to place documents, pictures and other objects on an imaging surface and display that image on a screen. Audio and video evidence may be played on a VCR, a CD player or an audio cassette player. Controls are computerized. Lawyers can plug their own computers into the courtroom system.

Bolivar County is the second county in the 11th Circuit Court District to get the evidence presentation system. A similar system has been in use in Coahoma County Circuit Court in Clarksdale since September 2002.

Circuit Judge Albert B. Smith III of Cleveland said, "The success of the system in Clarksdale made it imperative that we obtain one in Cleveland."

Smith said the equipment helps jurors understand the evidence and makes evidence presentation more efficient.

Smith said, "It speeds things along. Instead of having to hand 10 pictures to the jury, you can flash them on the screen. Jurors get a more vivid look at the picture, instead of having it for a couple of seconds and then passing it on."

Smith and Cochran said it's helpful for jurors to look at an object of evidence while a witness is testifying about it. Using the imaging and projection system, the attorneys may display pictures, documents, guns, bullets and other objects while a witness is testifying about an item.

Smith said, "I like the fact that we are all looking at the same screen. It's real time evidence presentation, instead of introducing something, talking about it and then passing it around."

A drawing feature allows a witness to mark on a picture or document on a computer screen, then copy the marked object. It's the courtroom equivalent of the diagraming technique used by sports broadcaster John Madden to explain football plays.

The equipment and installation is expected to cost about $42,000, said Administrative Office of Courts Director Kevin Lackey.

The Bolivar County Board of Supervisors will pay 25 percent to match a federal grant. 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.

Bolivar County will be the ninth county to get electronic evidence display equipment through the Court Delay Reduction Program of the Administrative Office of Courts. Since November 2001, courtrooms in Coahoma, DeSoto, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Lee, Pike and Rankin counties received computerized audio and video display systems.