High Tech Transcription Will Get Its Day In Court

To lawyers, judges, and juries, it's not only what witnesses say that counts, but also the pauses, facial expressions, and tone of voice used when they say it. That's one reason why many trials are videotaped. To locate key pieces of testimony, however, lawyers must spend hours searching through transcripts and then matching them up with the tape.

New software makes this work a snap. Stenograph Legal Services Inc., a unit of the largest maker of court stenographer machines, has come up with a system that automatically synchronizes video with transcripts. DiscoveryVideo software for IBM PC-compatibles can do a full-text word search through computerized court documents, ranging from depositions to confessions to court testimony. If you type in the word "accident," for instance, the computer will move to the places in the transcript where the witness used the word. Then, by pressing a special key, the video of that witness speaking about the accident will appear on the screen. The $4,700 DiscoveryVideo system is currently being used to review testimony in the Pan Am flight 103 terrorist trials.

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