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?

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Comments on “Case Appealed Because Jurors Were Allowed To Use Prosecutor's Laptop”

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Frosty840 says:

Re: 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…

Ima Fish (profile) says:

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.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.”

kevjohn (profile) says:

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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