In a continuing effort to keep pace with the latest technology, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama has installed electronic evidence presentation systems in all District and Magistrate Judge Courtrooms. The evidence presentation system will allow for the display of evidence throughout the courtroom on various monitors located at the bench, witness stand, the lectern, counsel tables and, when necessary, the jury box and the gallery. This innovative technology will eliminate the cumbersome process of handling paper evidence, with its inherent difficulties. This information does not provide a complete training package, but rather provides basic information on the components of the evidence presentation system as well as examples of how it may be used. Attorneys planning to use the equipment for court proceedings are encouraged to contact court staff for additional training, as well as practice sessions and testing of equipment.
Please note, practice sessions and testing must occur prior to the day of a scheduled court proceeding, as the courtroom will not be available the day of the proceeding. While this information will provide you with a better understanding of the new technology, it in no way includes all possible ways in which the system might be used.
The electronic evidence presentation system in the District and Magistrate Judge courtrooms includes the following:
- An evidence presentation lectern equipped with a document camera, monitor capable of annotation, microphone, VCR, computer, and auxiliary inputs for connecting a laptop or individual audio/visual equipment such as a compact disc player, DVD player, audio cassette player or a video camera.
- A monitor capable of annotation at the witness stand which, with the annotation monitor on the lectern, will allow both counsel and witness to make notes on displayed exhibits.
- Two sets of counsel tables, each equipped with evidence monitors, microphones and wired Internet connections.
- Wireless microphones — hand-held and lapel.
- Infrared headphones for use in assistive listening (amplified sound) as well as simultaneous second language interpreting.
- Audio teleconferencing.
- A 55” television for viewing by the jury when necessary.
The Bench is the control center for all courtroom technology. Here the system is controlled by two touchscreen control panels — one at the Clerk’s bench, the other at the Judge’s bench. The control panels manage the audio and video systems in the courtroom. In order to select an evidence source, one must request that source from the Clerk. From the bench, the Judge can control all the courtroom monitors, the audio and video sources from the lectern and the overall sound in the courtroom. At the touch of a single button, the Judge may turn off the evidence being presented, should he determine it not be made available to the jury, as well as mute every microphone in the courtroom.
Making Use of Technology
The technology is available for any proceeding in which the technology would benefit the presentation of evidence. If you would like to make use of this technology, you will need to make arrangements a minimum of 5 working days in advance of any court proceedings. To assist you in this, contact the Court Room Deputy or our Information Technology (IT) Staff. Click here to download the technology request form.
The Evidence Presentation Lectern
The evidence presentation lectern is equipped with a document camera, an annotation monitor, a microphone, a VCR, a PC, and auxiliary connections for other equipment.
The Document Camera
More commonly called the “ELMO”, the document camera is not just for documents. You can place a document, a photograph, a negative, x-rays, or a 3-dimensional object on the document camera and have it display on all monitors in the courtroom. To display your item on the document camera, place it face up with whatever edge you wish to be at the bottom of the display closest to you. If you look at the document camera, you’ll notice control buttons on the front, right under your fingertips. The control buttons and their actions are listed here. The italicized items are hands-off, though.
Powers up the document camera
Toggles the lamp options (Upper, Lower, Off)
Allows users to plug in external components.
Freezes the image on all monitors
AWC - Red/Blue Control
Adjusts the color
Reverses the color. Background is black, with white text
Mode should remain XGA
Adjusts the brightness level
Used only with an external component
Zooms in (up) or out (down)
Adjusts camera settings to sharpen the image
Allows users to see entire document or move the image with directional keys
There are some limitations on the document camera. The camera cannot project a full 8-1/2 x 11 page in portrait orientation (the page being taller than it is wide). Also, the average text size in a letter is not large enough for clear viewing fully zoomed out so you can see the full page. For that reason, you may want to consider digitizing your documents.
To use the document camera, simply request that the Clerk select the document camera. Place your items on the camera and go.
The monitor on the lectern and the monitor on the witness stand are both capable of annotation — that is, counsel or witness may draw on, point to or highlight any document or other piece of evidence that is displayed through the system. It works best with still images, be they documents, pictures, or “freeze frame” from a DVD player.
To “annotate” on a piece of evidence, use your finger to draw firmly on the screen. Do not use a pen, pencil, stylus, or your fingernail. It won’t work (and the first three may damage the screen). It may not even work if you have very cold hands. To draw a line or circle, simply place your finger on the screen and drag it across, much as you would if you were drawing in the sand. To place an arrow on the screen, simply tap it in the appropriate place. It takes some practice so make arrangements to do so.
There are a few other features that come with the annotation screen. There is a palette of colors to choose from. To select a color, simply tap the lower left hand corner of the screen until the block of color flashing in the lower right hand corner is the color you’d like. (Useful if you have two people annotating on the same piece of evidence.) To erase your last annotation, touch the upper right hand corner of the screen — it’s kind of like hitting the “backspace” on your computer. To clear the screen of annotations (probably a good thing before you change evidence), touch the lower right hand corner of the screen.
The front of the evidence presentation lectern has inputs for other audio and video equipment. It has a 15-pin VGA connection for a computer, an S-video connection, RCA connections and a 1/8” miniplug audio connection. You could possibly plug in your own laptop, a video camera, an audio cassette player, a DVD player … the list is endless. Please bring your own cables. The Court does not provide them.
Each courtroom is set for teleconferencing through the sound system. It is available for your use at the discretion of the Judge. If your expert witness cannot appear in court at the appointed date and time, the Judge may allow him or her to appear by telephone. If that is the case, the microphones and speakers in the courtroom will act as the telephone receiver and both sides of the conversation are broadcast through the sound system.