BY TOM BUSSELBERG
FARMINGTON - Electronic data access made it possible for the Davis County Attorney’s office to quickly thwart a claim made by the defense during the Nathan Sloop trial, earlier in 2013.
It was alleged that the wrong dosage had been prescribed in a flavor of Benedryl that had been recalled.
During a short court recess, documentation showed that Bubblegum flavor had been used, rather than cherry, which had been recalled, said David M. Cole, chief criminal division deputy for the Davis County Attorney’s office.
He cited that example from a well-known case to show how well the office’s new electronic records system can operate.
“In the preliminary hearing, there can be 164 exhibits,” he said.
Typical cases in 2nd District Court average 300 to 400 pages each. There were 3,000 such cases last year, alone, Cole said.
Add to that another 4,000 cases handled in the county by various jurisdictions.
Those paper trails would require hundreds of hours of research for each case, he said.
“There is a lot of human error with physical files. There are a lot of problems for the defense and prosecution who don’t always feel they get what they need. You eliminate so many steps with automation,” Cole said.
“Technology is changing the way we live and obtain information,” he said.
In law enforcement, information gathering has similarly involved. Years ago, the word of an officer and his memory of stopping a driver on suspicion of DUI was key. Now dash cams are combined with in-vehicle laptops or tablets to record the incident. That provides information independent on the officer’s view, Cole said.
In the county attorney’s office, bureau chief Craig Webb’s investigators also use tablets in collecting data, Cole said.
“In trials, jurors now are used to 30 second sound bites from YouTube, Facebook, etc. It’s important to have good audiovisual exhibits,” he said.
“We have limited resources and are really interested in streamlining,” he said.
Suzanne Canning, division paralegal, is organizing the electronic system, and hopes to have all case information converted within the next two years.
The system allows for organization by exhibit number and topic, and can be used to create video clips, he said.
Electronic transfer of files from each law enforcement agency in the county is also being integrated into the system, Canning said.
“We've made some very important changes to our digital office function that have already paid dividends,” said County Attorney Troy Rawlings.
He said the electronic system will cut employee time and costs.
“Other benefits are related to preparations for courtroom appearances and actual courtroom performance,” Rawlings said.
A SIRE Technologies system is being used. Many government agencies across the nation use this system, including such cities as Boston, Mesa, Az., and Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.