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Judge Nixes Motion to Compel Witness in Drug Case, But OKs Unusual Alternative: Skype

Posted Feb 24, 2011 5:02 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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After declining to require an out-of-state witness for the defense to testify in a drug-trafficking case, a leading Georgia judge found another way to allow the alibi witness to appear—Skype.

Opposed by the prosecutor in the case, the Internet-based video-phone service allowed a Texas witness to testify from his home state, even though the defendant, Juan Salazar, couldn't afford to compensate him for his travel costs, reports the Daily Business Review.

While Douglas County Superior Court Chief Judge David Emerson then went on to sentence Salazar to 30 years, the defense was pleased with this evidentiary ruling, says attorney Arturo Corso of Corso Kennedy & Campbell in Gainesville, Ga. His client plans to appeal the conviction.

A big-screen television made the witness almost life-size, and the technology allowed the prosecution to cross-examine the Texas witness almost as if he had been personally in the courtroom, according to to the judge and defense counsel.

Emerson will soon be president-elect of the Georgia Council of Superior Court Judges, and he says he will encourage the council to develop standards for implementing such technology.

"This would be an ideal situation for court interpreters, for example," Emerson tells the Business Review. "We have [telephone] language lines they use all the time."

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Calling It In"

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