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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.

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.

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.

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.