Defense attorneys across the Commonwealth have voiced concerns about the prospect of expanding the use of videoconferencing in criminal proceedings.
District Court Chief Justice Paul C. Dawley has been accepting comments on a draft standing order outlining the use of videoconferencing.
Randy Gioia, deputy chief counsel for the Committee for Public Counsel Services, explained his reservations about expanding the practice to Mass Lawyers Weekly for a recent article on the ongoing controversy:
Gioia said he appreciated Dawley’s willingness to listen to the bar’s concerns but fears the expansion of videoconferencing will be a “step backward” after great progress on criminal justice issues.
Gioia said he does not understand why judges look so favorably on a process that “detracts from the dignity of the court and dehumanizes the person on the other end of the screen.” …
Gioia noted that it is fairly common for a defendant in the courtroom to whisper to his attorney: “What the prosecutor said isn’t right. Here’s what really happened.”
But that conversation cannot happen with videoconferencing, at least not without a significant interruption of the proceedings, he said.
Theoretically, a judge could tell a defendant, “If at any time you need to say something to your lawyer, just let me know and I’ll stop the proceedings,” Gioia said. But he said he has never seen or heard of that happening.