Yokosuka's court gets high-tech upgrades
July 15, 2006
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — U.S. Navy Lt. Kim Kelly lugged a projector and screen to court if she wanted a PowerPoint presentation in her closing argument. Then everyone would crane their neck to see it.
Now, an attorney can bring a thumb-drive storage device, plug it in, press a few buttons and presto — the presentation is on 20 computer monitors in Yokosuka Naval Base’s “smart” courtroom.
Attorneys can beam in a deployed witness real-time from anywhere in the world through the courtroom’s video-teleconferencing system. Also, witnesses now can trace a route on a map using a touchscreen that everyone can see.
“It’s a lot different from when I went to law school,” Kelly said.
The courtroom — used by the Region Legal Service Office — is one of the Navy’s most modern, said Lt. Cmdr. James Mills, department division head of the office. Smart technology allows for “less ties to paper,” the visual and audio improvements are “spectator-friendly,” and those in the courtroom can look into the eyes of a witness a thousand miles away, he said.
“You can see someone’s actual demeanor with video-teleconferencing,” Mills said. “This [is] one of the keys to determining whether someone is telling the truth.”
The smart technology was part of a $500,000 renovation that originated in soundproofing, ventilation and security concerns with the old courtroom. Work started in 2005 and was finished in February. Though cases have been held in the refurbished courtroom, its “smart” aspect was only recently completed and has not yet been put to the test, Kelly said.
This means there will be a learning curve as everyone figures out the mechanics of the modern courtroom, she said.
The paradigm won’t be limited to lawyers making verbal and documented arguments to jury members or the judge. Now they’ll have the ability to incorporate graphics and sound with more polish and less disruption.
However, the rules and legal procedures remain the same, no matter how “smart” a courtroom is, Mills said.