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Towards a Distributed Courtroom

Digital technology is transforming all social life, including justice processes. This project has focused on the move towards virtual justice, where participants might be physically dispersed but present in one physical courtroom by audio and video technology. A team of academics across law, psychology and sociology, in partnership with justice, architecture and technology professionals have collaborated to develop a Distributed Courtroom model that tries to make the video-enabled hearing as similar as possible to a face-to-face hearing.

This report can be used to assist those developing general guidelines for practice in a distributed courtroom as well as those dealing with specific applications of these technologies.

Trust in juries and courts in the Age of Terror

By Wes Ward, Charles Sturt University   Thursday 8 June 2017
A book co-edited and part-written by a Charles Sturt University (CSU) legal expert has addressed the complex challenges faced by courts in Western democracies trying terrorism cases. Prof Jane Goodman-Delahunty believes that democratic practices such as the right to trial by jury are challenged in these cases by ethical, social and technological barriers.

Juries, Science and Popular Culture in the Age of Terror

Juries, Science and Popular Culture in the Age of Terror

Edited by David Tait and Jane Goodman-Delahunty

Courts around the world are struggling with how to deal with the Age of Terror whilst protecting human rights, the rule of law and the legitimacy of the courts.

Can juries can be fair in terrorism trials – wherein emotions are high, fear is in the air and the risk of intimidation is present? Can jurors be swayed towards a conviction by high-tech evidence? What’s the effect of scientific expert witnesses both for the defence and prosecution?

Terrorist with hidden face

Animating the Bomber: The Sydney Bomber Trial

Visual images don’t just convey information, they may be powerful tools for persuasion. This chapter examines the additional punch that animating the evidence may have, tracing the history from an animated goat on an ancient Iranian bowl to contemporary three-dimensional computer games.

The Sydney Bomber Study: Introducing the Mock Jurors

Mock jurors were fairly similar to regular jurors. By developing an in-depth profile of the mock jurors based on the beliefs and attitudes that they held when they arrived for jury duty, we could examine how the jurors’ responses to the bombing allegations in the simulated trial varied according to their background characteristics.

Counterterrorist soldiers

Research Aims and Methods

The Sydney Bomber study had two parts, and used a variety of observational, experimental and survey methods to examine how jurors responded to different conditions, how they deliberated and how their responses were shaped by the spectre of terrorism.

Forensic work - chalk outline

CSI Effects on Jury Reasoning and Verdicts

Most previous studies suggested the CSI effect was largely a fiction. In the first study in this project we found an effect – jurors who were most conditioned by CSI watching had higher conviction rates than others. In the second study regular CSI viewers said they found interactive visual evidence more “important” than those who were not regular CSI viewers.

CSI team member

How Juries Talked about Visual Evidence

One of the strongest features of the study was the thoughtful and often heated deliberations carried out by the 12 jury groups. Some of the jurors, whose expectations were shaped by TV drama, were disappointed about the lack of blood and guts in the interactive displays. Others used the displays to take issue with the conclusions of the prosecution witness. Most found that the visual evidence gave them a fuller understanding of the case.

Making Sense of Evidence: Jury Deliberation and Common Sense

Jurors used commonsense knowledge – wisdom grounded in their life experiences – to interpret and make sense of the evidence at the trial. When jurors came up with their own theories about what happened, these were subjected to a process of careful testing by fellow jurors. This chapter looks at what members of a mock jury in a terrorism trial said to each other in their deliberations and how they worked together.

Fortress or Sanctuary? Enhancing Court Safety by Managing People, Places and Processes

Security fears shape popular debates and government policies. They are also major issues for the design and management of courts. This report, carried out in partnership with several court systems in Australia and New Zealand, brings together the insights of court administrators and court users about the best way to create safe environments for all justice participants.

The report encourages those engaged in the administration and design of courts and tribunals to carefully analyse – for the specific place – the potential security risks and the potential safety opportunities (both physical and psychological) for each group of users and to evaluate a broad matrix of potential solutions which encompass physical, technological and operational elements.

Guidelines for witness testimony on video link

Embracing Technology: The Way Forward for the Courts

This paper, given by The Hon. Marilyn Warren AC, Chief Justice of Victoria, focuses on future courtroom technology – including virtual and interactive evidence, ‘virtual courtrooms’ hosted online, e-filing, case management and online dispute resolution. It engages in a some speculation, postulates some ideas about the future of technology and social media in courtrooms, and how it might be embraced.

US pioneer courtroom

3 Ways Of Reading Court Buildings

Court Environments As Legal Forums, Workplaces And Symbols Of Justice.

Court buildings can be analysed from 3 perspectives – judicial and administrative processes and procedures; the court as a workplace; and the symbolism of the building, embodying community values about the rule of law, transparency of justice or reconciliation. This chapter from a book delves deep into these aspects of the court environment.

Glass dock in courtroom

Glass Cages in the Dock: Presenting the Defendant to the Jury

This article examines legal debates about one important design question – where and how to seat the accused. It tells how courts, spurred on by assertive defence lawyers, fought back to protect the rights of the accused and have provided a more dignified court setting. The abandonment of a glass-framed enclosure, in particular, raised legal issues in the United States. These issues have reappeared in the European and Australia debates.

2008 European Courts Tour Report

2008 European & International Courts Tour Report

The second tour, in 2008, included European and international courts in Strasbourg, Luxembourg and The Hague. The tour included an architectural design exercise in the Peace Palace where groups outlined their ideal courtroom configurations for hearings involving alleged war crimes, human rights violations and disputes between nations. A common theme of all the designs was an emphasis on placing justice spaces within a park or other natural setting.