Case Appealed Because Jurors Were Allowed To Use Prosecutor's Laptop

from the that-doesn't-seem-very-smart dept

We've been seeing all sorts of odd issues in the courtroom as the court system comes to grips with modern technology like mobile phones and the internet, which introduces some new challenges. However, this one is really strange. Michael Scott points us to a story of a trial where the defendant appealed because the jury was allowed to use the prosecutor's laptop to review evidence without supervision, leading to questions of whether or not the jury was able to view other material that had not been entered as evidence in the case. The case itself involved a fight at a gas station, and the evidence on the laptop was the surveillance camera video taken of the fight. In an odd exchange, the prosecutor said he was fine with having the jury look over the laptop, he admits it's actually his son's laptop and probably didn't have anything else on it, other than his son's political science notes. For that reason, the appeal didn't get far, since the original court and the prosecutor had established on the record that there was nothing else related to the case on the laptop, but it still makes you wonder why the jury was allowed to use the prosecutor's laptop without supervision. Why not get another laptop? Also odd, is that I don't quite understand what the prosecutor means when he says he can't just take the CD with the video out of his laptop:
Your Honor, the CD is in my laptop. If they want to watch it, I don't have any problem with the CD they can't obviously watch anything without the CD. My concern if I take it out, shut down the computer I am not here there is no one to gather it back up. So I would suggest we leave it here in the event they want to look at it they come back and look at it.
Why couldn't they take the CD out and put it into another laptop?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Eugene, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 1:34am

    Because prosecutors are as clueless about technology as every other aging nongeek in the world?

     

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  2.  
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    Frosty840, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 2:18am

    Re:

    Got to agree with that.

    Even though the prosecutor made a statement regarding a CD, having dealt with my share of end-users, there's no guarantee whatsoever that he was actually referring to a physical Compact Disc(TM) object, it might just be what he calls files.

    Computers are one of those areas where otherwise well-educated, intelligent people can suddenly start spouting the most startlingly incompetent gibberish. Admittedly, the same thing tends to happen with people talking about copyright law, so maybe most of us are used to dealing with that level of craziness in normal communications...

     

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  3.  
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    Lisae Boucher (profile), Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 3:59am

    Or, because he encrypted the data on the CD and the decrypting software is only available on this laptop. Either the prosecutor has no clue about ITC or he's smart enough not to leave unencrypted data on a device that could be stolen.

     

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  4.  
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    illogical, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 5:01am

    Re:

    Why bother encrypting evidence, unless youdo not want others to view it.

     

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  5.  
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    Lisae Boucher (profile), Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 5:28am

    It wasn't his own laptop. His son owns it. And his son seems to be a more computer-savvy student, who probably knows a trick or two to keep his data protected.

     

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  6.  
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    Trails, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 5:33am

    Re:

    I doubt the encryption thing since it's his son's laptop. Further what would be the point of encrypting evidence that is a matter of public record?

    This sounds like the judge and prosecutor were both clueless when it comes to tech.

     

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  7.  
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    NullOp, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 5:49am

    What?

    And why couldn't the bailiff oversee the watching of the video? Or maybe they were worried about him stealing the CD/laptop.

     

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  8.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 6:02am

    but it still makes you wonder why the jury was allowed to use the prosecutor's laptop without supervision. Why not get another laptop?

    I'll take your second question first, maybe you should try working in a court. Do you think we work in Best Buy? That we have shelves filled with laptops to use? The Circuit I work for has no laptops available. So that's probably why they used the prosecutor's.

    As to why the jury was allowed to watch it without supervision, that's probably a good question. If the disc could have played on a "clean" laptop or a DVD player, certainly the jury could have watched it without supervision. But simply sending a computer with unknown contents into the jury room was a huge mistake and quite bizarre.

    "Your Honor, the CD is in my laptop..."

    I won't even attempt to make sense of that nonsense.

     

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  9.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 6:06am

    Re: What?

    While I agree (see below) that the jury should not have been alone with the laptop. However, if all the jury did was watch video, e.g., on a dvd player, there is simply no reason to have someone watch them. Anymore so than watching them while they read properly admitted transcripts and documents. The jury really should be alone when they deliberate and should be watched over only in very limited circumstances.

     

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  10.  
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    BBT, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 6:17am

    Why didn't they just make a GUI interface in Visual Basic and see if they could track the IP address?

     

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  11.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 6:18am

    Because

    "Why couldn't they take the CD out and put it into another laptop?"

    Uh, because none of the other laptops in the courthouse had a web cam, and the prosecutor wanted the jury to use an augmented reality system to see a music video of John Mayer shadow boxing around the perps in the gas station surveillance video...

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 6:19am

    He didn't know how it worked, no matter how many times his son showed how to open up the CD and play the video he wasn't getting it. This is how I think it went down.

    "Ok dad, when you put in the CD it'll ask you how you want to open the CD up. Just click on open files, go into my computer, and just double click on the file"

    "Son, it's asking me questions, do I say open with media player or open with Picasa? We watch videos with media player right??"

    "Ok fine, just just leave it in, if you take it out it doesn't work."

     

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  13.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 6:33am

    Re:

    God, it's funny because it's true. Good call!

     

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  14.  
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    Jason, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 7:43am

    Shouldn't get it back right away anyway...

    If the CD's going for review by the jury, then it ought to entered into evidence, in which case he shouldn't be getting it back until the trial is over anyway. Procedurally, the CD should be going into an evidence locker.

     

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    kevjohn, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 9:17am

    What's even more interesting is that the prosecutor picked up and personally chauffered each juror to the courthouse in his new Cadillac CTS.

    Juror #3 remarked, "Such a fine gentleman, offering us a ride and allowing us to use his laptop. Anyone that nice must be truthful and on the right side. That alone keyed us in to the defendant's guilt. I didn't even need to watch that video after that."

     

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  16.  
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    PCDEC, Nov 3rd, 2009 @ 11:50am

    To remove the CD and play it on another device the prosecutor would have had to hire a Computer A/V expert at a cost of over $10,000.

     

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  17.  
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    Onlineisgreat, Nov 11th, 2009 @ 8:39am

    Very funny stuff

    He didn't know how it worked.What's even more interesting is that the prosecutor picked up and personally chauffered each juror to the courthouse in his new Cadillac CTS.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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