Lake County prosecutors host mock trial to showcase technology

2013-04-03T18:45:00Z 2013-04-04T09:29:07Z Lake County prosecutors host mock trial to showcase technologySusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com

CROWN POINT | A mock trial of a robbery defendant set the stage Wednesday for the office of Lake County Prosecuting Attorney Bernard Carter to shed light on its expanding use of technology to cut the time and cost of prosecution.

The roles of judge, prosecutor, defense attorney and victim were handled by Carter's deputy prosecuting attorneys with assists by law enforcement officers as the perpetrator and investigators.

However, the star of the production was the information technology — primarily driven by innovative use of the iPad — to display and record photographs, maps and other exhibits to jurors quickly and efficiently.

Watching proceedings in the jury box were three courtroom IT specialists with the office of Pima County (Ariz.) Prosecuting Attorney Barbara LaWall.

The men not only heard firsthand testimony from a witness threatened by the defendant outside the courtroom but viewed video of the encounter caught by an alert staff member.

A city map of downtown Crown Point projected on the monitor pinpointed a second assault on the witness by the defendant's son.

Photographs and documents, such as signed subpoenas, also appeared on the screen for easy viewing and admittance into the record.

Meanwhile, the defense stumbled along the old-fashioned way without the benefit of technology to prove the accuracy of testimony or otherwise support its case.

Lake County's advanced technology came to the attention of the Arizona staff when a Lake County deputy prosecutor joined the Arizona prosecutor's office.

The IT experts stopped in Lake County for a demonstration of the technology in advance of an American Bar Association technology conference.

Following Wednesday's mock trial, the Arizona visitors praised Lake County's development, calling it "cutting edge."

"My gut feeling is that most prosecutors' offices are still pretty much run on paper," said Rob Peck, information technology director of LaWall's office.

However, that's changing, Peck said.

The use of iPads or tablets in courtrooms initially got started in big civil cases. That's where the money is, he said.

The use of technology by private firms created the applications now being adapted by prosecutors and others, he said.

On the government side, administrators face budget issues.

"Where do you spend it?" Peck asked. "Obviously this prosecutor's office made the decision to spend money on technology to utilize it better and make their staffs more efficient and productive."

Lake County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Barbara McConnell credited her office's progress to its information technology manager, Myron Chenault, who is also an attorney and understands the needs of both worlds.

McConnell said the technology demonstrated Wednesday has been in use for at least 18 months.

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