In a recent ruling on the case of Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, the Supreme Court stated that prosecutors need to have forensic experts available for a defendant’s cross-examination since technicians who prepare reports act as “witnesses” for the prosecution.
The ruling is important to protect defendants from being wrongly convicted due to inaccurate laboratory tests and/or evidence, but it has created a lot of dissent on the state and local government level. Many just don’t have the budget or resources available to ensure that experts are on hand for cross examination.
In today’s current economic environment, many states are having significant problems with balancing their budgets. The additional costs associated with ensuring that experts appear in court are going to be a huge strain on resources and potentially an inefficient use of time for forensic personnel.
There is a solution that would require an initial investment, but would subsequently save the states significant amounts of money over time: video teleconferencing (VTC). By implementing VTC in courtrooms, experts could “appear” in court and testify without the added expense of travel to appear in a courtroom in-person.
The concept of using VTC in the criminal justice system isn’t particularly new. In a previous post we talked about how the San Antonio police department is using video conferencing in the search warrant process, which is saving time and money by cutting down on the time needed to process a search warrant.
With the new Supreme Court ruling in effect, VTC could be a good solution for saving money for state governments while ensuring defendants get a fair and speedy trial.