LCD Projectors Aid Presentation in "Courtroom of the Future"

When Professor Winton Woods of the Tucson-based University of Arizona's College of Law heard about the major class-action trial involving Charles Keating's troubled Lincoln Savings & Loan, he immediately secured a seat in the courtroom.

The celebrated case was important to Woods not because of his specialty in fraud and scandal, but because it incorporated technological advances in the courtroom that Woods had never seen.

As the professor watched the plaintiff's opening statement, he was amazed to see a video deposition of Keating and four other key witnesses projected onto a large screen. "The way the litigator presented was seamless," says Woods.

Woods discovered that the plaintiff's lawyer was using a rear-screen projection device that interfaced with his computer. He became convinced that this was an ideal way to present video depositions and to display evidence such as documents, handwritten notes, animation, charts and graphs.

A Model for the 21st Century

In fact, the professor felt so strongly that video projection was the wave of the future, he decided to design a "Courtroom of the Future" to be used by students for mock trials. It could also serve as a model for working judges, court administrators and lawyers responsible for bringing their courtrooms into the 21st century.

Woods initially was dismayed to find that it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase the necessary rear-screen projection units, wiring, interface boxes, sound system, switches and controlled lighting he desired.

In researching less expensive alternatives, he looked at active-matrix LCD projection, in which a light source and LCD are built into one unit, capable of projecting both computer and video images onto a large screen.

Even though Woods' new estimate for the courtroom cost significantly decreased, the university denied his request for a grant. He then turned directly to the manufacturers of the equipment for help, starting with nVIEW Corp., of Newport News, Va.

Within days, a company executive told Woods that nVIEW would supply a Luminator L115 projector to the cause. "I researched several high-powered projectors, of which the Luminator was the most powerful," says Woods, citing its portability, plug-and-play features, image quality, multi-source capability and reliability.

Woods especially appreciates the unit's compatibility with many sources &emdash; including computers, VCRs, TVs, videodisc players and camcorders &emdash; allowing it to operate as a free-standing unit or connected to the courtroom's presentation system.

"The Luminator has never had a problem interfacing with the other equipment," Woods notes. "It's always performed flawlessly."

In addition, the projector's single, reversible cable connects to both Macintosh and PC machines, enabling lawyers to bring in their own laptops without worrying about compatibility.

Another obvious advantage to LCD projectors is they eliminate the need for TV monitors: "Monitors seem to get in the way, and they are so difficult to maneuver," explains Woods.

Image quality plays a key role in presenting evidence that is clear and readable. With its 130:1 contrast and palette of 1.4 million colors, the Luminator projects sharp images up to as large as 15 ft. diagonally.

Jury Prefers the "Real Thing"

Some lawyers choose to recreate and enlarge documents, mounting them on foam core so everyone can better view their contents. However, in Woods opinion, "the believability factor of the jury increases when they can see the real thing."

This "believability" factor also extends to video depositions, where juries can watch actual testimony rather than the lawyers' interpretations. "You can even look into a person's eyes. It's incredibly powerful," comments Woods.

At the college, student "litigators" enjoy the freedom of seamlessly switching between video and computer sources; a credit card-sized remote for the Luminator lets one advance images or, by pressing the "curtain" button, blank out an image to finish making a point.

Woods attributes the success of the Courtroom of the Future, currently being used for mock trials at the University of Arizona, to nVIEW's Luminator and other high-tech tools found in some modern classrooms and boardrooms. Web Extra: Read how similar technology was used in the O. J. Simpson murder trial.

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/1996 issue of THE Journal.