In the hustle and bustle of these past couple weeks, I didn’t want to forget to mention a technological breakthrough that occurred Friday in Bremerton Municipal Court.
A witness took the virtual stand.
To elaborate, Hsushi Yeh, a Tacoma-based ophthalmologist, was called to the stand to testify to the vision of Mark Lewis. Lewis, a prominent local jazz musician, was convicted of obstructing police Monday, in a trial where his vision was scrutinized.
Could this be a sign of things to come? I’m thinking about the money that could potentially be saved in instances where a witness wouldn’t have to travel sometimes great distances to testify in court.
In Port Orchard, Kitsap County’s district court is already using video appearances from jail so officials don’t have to transport inmates handcuffed together into court.
Kitsap County District Court Administrator Maury Baker said that there are “intense conversations,” amongst the judges about bringing in the capacity to let witnesses testify from afar. He believes the technology would have great benefits and could start in less serious legal arenas, like traffic court. For instance, what if someone from out of state got a ticket here and wanted to fight it — without having to fly back out here?
From there, it could be expanded, likely as long as attorneys on both sides of a case agree to it.
“It’s a brave new world,” he said.
Kitsap County Superior Court Administrator Frank Maiocco said at present, the county’s highest court doesn’t have the technology — a TV with an internet connection — that would make Skyping a witness possible. But he acknowledges that courtrooms in the future could be equipped to make it possible.
Assuming, though, that the judicial powers-that-be are ready for it, he added.
“The technology has changed,” Maiocco said. “The the question is, will the culture?”