by Victor Lopez
MIDLAND-- Video conferencing is making things easier for District Court Judges in Midland. But it doesn't stop with them. It's making it's way on down the line.
"This is just unbelievably nice and efficient for all the courts, jailers and the attorneys," Adult Probation Officer, Ross Bush, said.
The arraignment game takes place every Friday morning. All the players in their places, the Judge, Prosecutor and Defense Attorney. The only one missing, is the Defendant. He's still at central jail.
According to the Honorable Judge John Hyde of the 238th District Court, "The only time it's really necessary for the defendant to be, actually, in the courtroom is during a pre-trial hearing when his or her presence is necessary."
Inmates no longer have to be shackled up and loaded into vans to make their court appearances, and that's a good thing.
"The great advantage of that is the security, not having to move inmates from the jail over to the courthouse. Also the advantage of personnel. Not having to have additional personnel bring them over in the vans," Judge Hyde explained.
The Judges aren't the only ones feeling the positive effects of video arraignment. Ross Bush has worked in adult probation for 9 years and has witnessed the whole arraignment process.
"It's a time saver for the court, because they look on the video screen, they see them shuffle in at the central jail, they begin arraignments," he commented.
Bush added, if someone on probation happens to jump bail and get re-arrested for something else, "It's a benefit, time-wise for us, because they know immediately they are downtown or at central."
Judge Hyde says, the biggest positive of it all, is the time and money being saved on transportation, "I'm advised that whatever the cost was is cheaper than transporting them on a weekly basis."
"You've got all the Sheriff's people, tied up with this, when they could be doing other duties," Bush remarked.
No other court system in the area is using video conferencing for their arraignments. Judge Hyde says it does not deprive the state or the defense of the right to be heard, since they are in the courtroom, it's just on television.