Should trials be conducted via video connections in separate locations?
While the technology exists to bring together defendants, prosecutors, attorneys and judges, the consensus of those gathered in Reno this week is that using it for full-blown trials is not the way to go. Many jurisdictions use video connections for first appearances, arraignments and procedural matters. It’s a great way to cut costs by not having to transport hundreds of inmates to court, as they can face the judge via camera and monitor from special rooms inside the jails.
The missing link in using this technology for trials is the inability for the cameras to capture the courtroom environment. The nuance is gone. People can’t see the reactions of others when points are made. And most importantly, it’s impossible to "look them in the eye" when it comes time to read the verdict or address the principals in the case.
A sidebar to this discussion involved the "Judge Judy effect." Thanks to the proliferation of TV shows like this, many people they can act in court as they see those in the programs act toward the judge. It’s a testament to the power of the entertainment portion of the media having a real impact on how people perceive the real side of the law. The same can be said about one of my favorite TV programs — Law and Order. Everything happens in about 48 minutes, when anyone who has sat through or been a party to a real court case knows that nothing gets done in 48 minutes.