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Live Justice Comes To the Internet 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-just-another-court-show dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Boston Globe reports that an experiment in live justice is coming to the Internet, uniting citizen bloggers with the public's right to know in one of Massachusetts's busiest courthouses, Quincy District Court. Dubbed Open Court, the project will operate live cameras and microphones during criminal sessions where the court's proceedings will be streamed live over the Internet at the Open Court website to give the public an unfiltered view of court proceedings while an operating Wi-Fi network serves citizen bloggers who want to post to the Internet. 'The idea is that people can live blog, but they can also tweet,' says John Davidow, executive editor in charge of new media at WBUR, who developed the idea for the project, adding that during the next year, the goal is to move the experiment outside the first session courtroom and to stream criminal and civil trials and small claims cases as well. The project was seeking a busy court and found it in Quincy, where last year the court handled more than 7,000 criminal claims and more than 15,000 civil cases, including more than 1,100 restraining orders, nearly 1,000 substance abuse and mental health cases and more than 1,200 landlord-tenant cases."
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Live Justice Comes To the Internet

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  • Phone in vote (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 15, 2011 @06:02PM (#36135658)

    Lines close at 11, this week on America's Got Time.

  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @06:05PM (#36135684)
    This is nice for the press, the bloggers and the curious, but do we really want all court proceedings 'broadcast' in this manner? Are we looking at a future where "live court reporting" takes place complete with ads and commentators? The quality will be even worse than the NFL channel's piss-poor play-by-play coverage of games.
    • It's only a matter of time before a website like whosarat.com moves in and takes advantage of this live court reporting idea.
      Inquiring minds want to know who the snitches are.

      • by painehope (580569)

        That would be one of the first steps towards actual justice that could be handled on the net. The first one that sprung to mind for me was live feeds of the holding tanks at your local county jail, or the interrogation rooms. Of course, the cops will still keep a room where there's no cameras and no witnesses except them, just like the many that I've had chickenshits with badges beat on me while I'm in full restraints. It's amazing how pissed off they get when you beg for mercy, catch your breath, and then

      • by jhoegl (638955)
        Because appearing in court and having court documents a matter of public record is not enough?
      • by cozzbp (1845636)
        Funny, I was thinking it would only be a matter of time before I could place bets on the outcomes of court proceedings.
    • How many politicians and CEO's will be put on trial?... None you say?! I thought so... Ok, carry on...
    • by ozbird (127571)
      "Not only must Justice be done; it must also be seen to be done." -- R v Sussex Justices, ex parte McCarthy [1924]
    • by Anonymous Coward

      This is nice for the press, the bloggers and the curious, but do we really want all court proceedings 'broadcast' in this manner? Are we looking at a future where "live court reporting" takes place complete with ads and commentators? The quality will be even worse than the NFL channel's piss-poor play-by-play coverage of games.

      You'd prefer the alternative - that all trials be conducted in secret?

      One of the cornerstones of Western jurisprudence is that the court proceedings - and the courts themselves -

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Nedmud (157169)

        That is not the alternative -- it's the opposite extreme.

        Allowing a media free-for-all increases the risk of Jurors getting outside information on the case.

        Justice needs oversight; but also also needs to be protected from interference. Optimising justice means finding a tradeoff between these ideals.

    • Oh No! Jake has fumbled his chance of getting a reduced sentence after releasing a stream of racist obscenities at the judge and general population. No good Jake

      Well Chip, looks to me like someone didn't get their Florida's Natural orange juice this morning
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:02PM (#36135966)

      No, we don't. That it comes from Massachusetts, home of Romneycare, and was the brain-child of some NPR guy, home of "Republicans are racist" fundraisers, should be enough to prove that.

      But even if you don't care about that, the answer is still: No, we don't. Court rooms should be open to interested members of the public. It should be open to the press.

      It should not be open to any idiot on the Internet, especially when a trial can badly damage people's reputations even if they are eventually found guilty. (Remember, as far as the public is concerned, it's guilty until magic CSI science proves otherwise. The police never make mistakes in public fairy-land.)

      And, hell, just imagine the potential for witness and jury intimidation. Can you imagine being a witness testifying against a rapist? Can you imagine being on a jury, knowing that your "guilty" vote is being broadcast out to every gang member?

      There's a difference between "public" and "broadcast to every corner of the globe." Court proceedings should be public so that interested observers can ensure they're fair. They shouldn't be broadcast to the Internet. That's a recipe for disaster.

      • And, hell, just imagine the potential for witness and jury intimidation. Can you imagine being a witness testifying against a rapist? Can you imagine being on a jury, knowing that your "guilty" vote is being broadcast out to every gang member?

        There's a difference between "public" and "broadcast to every corner of the globe." Court proceedings should be public so that interested observers can ensure they're fair. They shouldn't be broadcast to the Internet. That's a recipe for disaster.

        Currently, the gang members sit in the back of the courtroom, since, y'know, they're interested observers. How is this any different, except that they can now stay home?

      • by phiwum (319633)

        No, we don't. That it comes from Massachusetts, home of Romneycare, and was the brain-child of some NPR guy, home of "Republicans are racist" fundraisers, should be enough to prove that.

        What a remarkably stupid opening.

        Whether this is a good thing or not is certainly worth debate (and you provide some actual argument later in your post), but these silly examples of the genetic fallacy come off as nothing more than bigoted ignorance.

    • by milkmage (795746)

      this isn't new. back in the 90's there was a show called CourtTV.. (I think it's still around, but they've changed programming).. anyway. that's all it was: live trial broadcasts. BORING AS HELL.. even if you had an interest in the case... it's like baseball.. 15 minutes of action spread out over a day.. if the judge called a 10 minute recess, you sat there for 10 minutes watching whoever was in the courtroom waste 10 minutes.. there really wasn't any commentary either, except before the court came to order

      • Maybe. But then, I enjoy watching C-SPAN. I like the idea of being able to watch what our judges, LEOs, and congress critters are up to.

        What I do not like is that a channel (I cannot remember if it was C-SPAN, may have been a different local channel), was recently caught switching views during voting sessions. I think it was the Texas legislature? Anyhow, during the times that the cameras were switched, they would vote, both for themselves and several of their neighbors who were not there. It bothers me tha

      • by theNAM666 (179776)
        Ever heard of a channel changer? DVR? Fast forward? Slashdot, where the infinity of noise rapidly approaches the limit of signal.
    • by drolli (522659) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @07:21PM (#36136068) Journal

      no, i dont want to see how people with mental problems or people who are found to have smoked some weed but not sentenced are stigmatized. It wont be long until somebody makes a database and offers a service for possible employers to check against.

      Searching for the image or the voice of a person is not science fiction any more.

      • by theNAM666 (179776) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @11:03PM (#36137166)
        I *hope* you are aware that all court records are already databased and searchable by potential employers, regardless of this, and are being sarcastic. Because if not... SlashDot's intelligence level is dropping even faster than I thought.
        • by drolli (522659)

          i am not sure about the legal situation in all states, but AFAIU courts can rule that not all information which was discussed during the case, including testimonies is available, and for certain cases that seems to be the standard.

          • by theNAM666 (179776) on Monday May 16, 2011 @01:44AM (#36137842)

            Yeah, sure. And records can be sealed or expunged later. In reality, once it gets into a private company's database in the US, even if the defendant wins, even if there is a prohibition, certainly if the record is later expunged, it's in the database. The private companies often pick up the court filings daily or weekly, and pay local courts for the privilege-- with no privacy laws to prevent it, the only recourse is to sue, and a poor bloke with little or no education, in fact anyone but the very privileged, are simply "screwed."

            The NYT carried an article today about how the credit bureaus keep "VIP" lists of judges and politicians, correcting errors in their credit reports immediately-- while average citizens often spends years trying to correct mistakes, while they are denied credit, loans, leases (for rental property etc.) and even jobs as a result. It's unbelievable and unconscionable, but what the United States has become. I'm glad to have the opportunity to exit whenever I wish.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The justice system is a pain for the victim, most of the time if they get through the hassle once in life it's enough. But getting through all that frustration and humiliation is plenty without making it a media circus ...

    • Don't worry. Few will watch it. Sure, it might sound like Cops, but it's actually more like CSPAN.

    • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      but do we really want all court proceedings 'broadcast' in this manner?

      Of course "we" do. "We" want our justice system to look like the rest of our television. We can be told it's "reality" TV, but like all "reality" TV, there is nothing "real" about it. But if it looks "real-ish" then that's good enough for us. We'll see a satisfying parade of poor black and hispanic faces on their way to our prison system.

      Oh, you didn't think you'd see anyone from Goldman Sachs in court on TV, did you? In America, if

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Public trials in the town square, really missed that!

    • by bluemonq (812827)

      Generally speaking, trials have always been open to the public.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Mashiki (184564)

      I don't know where you live in the uncivilized parts of the world, but the average citizen could always enter a court and watch a trial. Both in Canada and the US. This to me seems simply like an extension of that. The only difference is, the chances of having a chat with the judge before they go on break seems pretty slim with this. But who knows, maybe they'll add a Q&A session at the end of the day.

      Where I live(canada), justices and jp's regularly take questions from the gallery on the current st

  • ... on the remote-controlled rifles!

    • by hedwards (940851)

      Those already exist, some outfits even offer hunting via web cam. Which is about as repulsive as you can imagine.

  • Pay-per-view executions. People are naturally drawn to that type of thing: gladiatorial combat, public hangings and beheadings, etc. Also, consider this: right now, executions are carried out behind closed doors. Most people don't see them, many don't even hear about them. Perhaps if executions become more public, they may actually have something of a deterrent effect. Being able to see them on TV would make them see more real, make execution seem like an actual, possible outcome rather than the abstra
    • gladiatorial combat? should people be able to win there way out? or just win life without parole?

      • by Nidi62 (1525137)
        I was just giving historical examples of people being drawn to and in fact paying to see public death. I wasn't implying we need to use it ourselves.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          But its not that far fetched. One has to ask what sort of confidence this will bring to the court of law. While he/she may be found innocent, trial by public may just ruin a life worth living.

      • Almost to Deadman Wonderland here.

    • by theNAM666 (179776)
      Well, it's one way to solve the US budgetary "crisis." How about $1 million for a seat in the room? $50 million to pull the switch! American capitalist enterprise at work!!!
    • by c6gunner (950153)

      Pay-per-view executions.

      Too boring. Who wants to pay to see a guy getting stuck with an IV, and then falling asleep? Just go volunteer at the local hospital!

      No, what we need is a viewer-vote program:

      "Welcome to the execution hot-line! This Fridays execution features 5-time killer and rapist Joe Bob from Somewhweres, Kentucky. If you would like to see Joe boiled alive in Crisco Brand cooking oil, press 1 now! If you would like to see him garroted with Sea Striker brand fishing line, press 2! To see a firing squad sporting thi

  • by Yvanhoe (564877)
    Am I the only French guy who thought this was about DSK ? The guy has been arrested 24h ago and already thousands of people follow what is happening through twitter and various live blogs.
  • I wonder if there could be a drinking game made out of this.

    Just thinking how such a move will be used in was that aren't expected.

  • by nacturation (646836) * <nacturation&gmail,com> on Sunday May 15, 2011 @06:56PM (#36135930) Journal

    One issue I see with this is that the average person is going to tune into a section of a criminal trial, hear the prosecution's side of things and tune out, having made up their mind that So-and-so is a criminal. Then they'll start talking about it among their friends, some of whom might blog or tweet about it, and before you know it the person is presumed guilty in the public eye. All that before the defense can cross-examine the first witness. When you're limited to being there in person, there's a barrier to entry that tends to weed out the casual gossiper whose only interest is the soap opera nature of a trial.

    Much like how the internet used to be a place where civilized academics and corporate citizens would be able to communicate together, share ideas, and so on. Anyone who wanted to get on the internet had a natural barrier they had to go through -- attend a university, get a job at a connected company, etc. Then the floodgates opened and any yahoo could get online. Now the "lol, fag" level of communication is expected rather than something that trolls did 20 years ago only for the shock value.

    Besides which, this isn't really an open court in that it's a one-way communication tool. A true open court should be two-way. Let's have a jury of a few million people who can Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down to decide the innocence or guilt of an accused.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Much like how the internet used to be a place where civilized academics and corporate citizens would be able to communicate together, share ideas, and so on

      Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa AHAHAAAaahaa hoo hoho

      Damn you almost had me there. The internet was never every that. Look no further than the alt groups in usenet. You will see the BS has been flowing a long time. Before that was the local watering hole/barbershop/hairdresser. The internet just made it faster and more 'anonymous' is all.

      Your point is still vali

      • by hubie (108345)

        Bwaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa AHAHAAAaahaa hoo hoho

        Damn you almost had me there. The internet was never every that. Look no further than the alt groups in usenet. You will see the BS has been flowing a long time.

        Indeed. This is where we got things like YHBT. HAND.

    • by rdnetto (955205) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:28PM (#36136378)

      One issue I see with this is that the average person is going to tune into a section of a criminal trial, hear the prosecution's side of things and tune out, having made up their mind that So-and-so is a criminal. Then they'll start talking about it among their friends, some of whom might blog or tweet about it, and before you know it the person is presumed guilty in the public eye. All that before the defense can cross-examine the first witness. When you're limited to being there in person, there's a barrier to entry that tends to weed out the casual gossiper whose only interest is the soap opera nature of a trial.

      This is why in Sweden it is illegal to publish the name/identity of the accused until they are convicted. A similar law may be necessary in other countries as such tech becomes more common - a lot of existing laws that balance rights involving privacy assume a certain level of difficulty in accessing the information (e.g. going to the courthouse) that may no longer be the case.

      • by theNAM666 (179776)
        But the opposite of this is, if there's no publicity, no one sees the abuses (which may be and likely are much more common in the US). At this point, defendants in the US, especially those without counsel, (other than the joke of appointed counsel), are subject to abuse of rights in what is essentially invisibilty-- many courtrooms do not allow any reporting other than what can be carries out on a notepad. In a completely adversarial system, one which has no formal or procedural obligation to purs
      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        In the UK we have a law preventing the release of the name of the accused if under 18, as well as "contempt of court" where someone publishes information that would make a fair trial impossible. Unfortunately the internet makes a mockery of them because people can post anonymously or from other countries.

        The Swedish way seems like a good idea because currently the UK media will publish the name of anyone arrested for a crime, and that alone could preclude a fair trial. For example the jury is not told of pr

  • In This Corner: wearing the green tie.... Abdul the Accused! and the returning Champion: YOUR Mighty Morphin Power Prosecutor...Sam Waterston! realistically, this could apply to the National Spelling Bee or Competition Eating. there are over 1000 cable channels and even more on sat. they need programming! cross-examination drinking games? China trials? twitter is already there..... GrandMa and GrandPa need video and a grandchild to set it up.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The idea is that people can live blog, but they can also tweet

    Liveblog and tweet?! Oh the progress! Sometimes I wish that arpanet have never caught on with the wider world. Crap like this just dilutes the intellectual capital of this civilization.

  • Earth is destroyed, and everyone wants to cooperate in the space colonies, so it is a hyper democracy. Everyone is a politician and votes for things over the Internet. Also trials are held on the Internet with people voting if someone is guilty or not. If he is guilty, people are free to suggest a punishment on a forum, and the comment with the most votes gets to be the "criminal's" punishment. Let us just say,"Cruel and unusual punishment is basically the rule" Finally back to mob-justice, and with su
  • by hawguy (1600213) on Sunday May 15, 2011 @08:19PM (#36136322)

    ...an operating Wi-Fi network serves citizen bloggers who want to post to the Internet. 'The idea is that people can live blog, but they can also tweet,'

    Couldn't they already tweet using any cell phone purchased in the past 10 years or so? I thought the whole point of Twitter was that you can use SMS to send tweets. Why do they need this Wifi network to tweet?

    • by Fished (574624)
      At least around here, all the courthouses prohibit cell phones.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    To me, this makes the court proceeding itself a form of punishment. Do we really want to discourage people from seeking proper legal remedies, on account of our insatiable prurient interest in other people's business? This is a very bad idea.

    • by Xacid (560407)

      My thoughts too. I don't see what they're trying to accomplish with this. Maybe the appearance of transparency at the potential detriment to the defendant?

  • by Jeremi (14640)

    Let me know when they have Live Nude Justice.

  • It's an interesting concept that a traditionally closed court proceeding with peers chosen from a local demographic might conceivably one day become a session seen and judged by thousands, possibly tens of thousands of people. It's a logistical nightmare, but maybe one day will be an alternative method of judging court cases. A verdict from the jury, the judge, with input from the collective. I don't know if it could be feasible...I just find it interesting.
  • Within 30 minutes, people are going to realize that real court is nothing like Law & Order and will wonder why the process is dragging on so much.

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