Lafayette County gets evidence presentation equipment

September 29, 2003

The Lafayette County Circuit Court has new electronic evidence presentation equipment.

Circuit Judge Andrew Howorth said, "It will facilitate clarity in the presentation of evidence. It should also help expedite trials."

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.

"The great thing about this is that the lawyers can prepare all of their documentary evidence on their laptops, bring it to court and display it on our system in a manner that they have formatted, and that's helpful," Howorth said.

Kathryn Hill, law clerk for the 3rd Circuit Court, said, "With these older courtrooms, it is difficult to see and hear everything that is going on."

Hill said replacing the traditional passing around of paper exhibits with a display on a large screen television monitor will hold jurors' attention. Having the capability for computerized storage and recall of exhibits will allow more efficient presentation, Hill said.

"It just gives a different kind of professionalism," Hill said. "It's putting us where we need to be technologically."

Hill said, "It serves justice better."

Jefferson Audio and Video Systems Inc. of Louisville, Ky., began installing the equipment on Sept. 22 and completed the work on Sept. 24.

The equipment is available for use in a civil trial that began today.

An equipment demonstration was done for a few local lawyers on Sept. 25. Training with continuing legal education credit is expected to be offered later.

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

Lafayette County is the eleventh county to get electronic evidence display equipment through the Court Delay Reduction Program of the Administrative Office of Courts. Since November 2001, courtrooms in Bolivar, Coahoma, DeSoto, Forrest, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Lee, Pike and Rankin counties received computerized audio and video display systems with the assistance of federal grant money.

Benton County, which is part of the 3rd Circuit District, also has an electronic evidence display system. The Benton County Board of Supervisors paid the total cost of that system when the Ashland courthouse moved to a renovated factory building in 2001.