Criminal Justice

Tech & Data Criminal Justice Projects: A(lpha) List by Jason Tashea

I'm in the middle of writing a report on new technology and data projects affecting criminal justice systems. Through the help of advocates and experts around the country, I've been keeping a simple spreadsheet of these projects. I've decided to put up a PDF version of this list to start getting feedback. I am building an interactive version, but it's not ready yet. Please give a look, and if you want to share a project or make a comment, please use the form at the bottom of the page.

Oculus Riffing by Jason Tashea

I was doing some research on Oculus Rift hacks, and I came across this ad campaign from Sweden. Moding the Oculus with a GoPro and Raspberry Pi, they set up a delay of up to three seconds. The result was the person experienced what's going on around them 3 seconds after the fact. The idea was called "living with lag". The results, as you'll see are both hilarious and, I can only imagine,  infuriating.

While the video is great, I think there's something here for the criminal justice system. Why can't we deploy this same hack for juries? Hear me out.

Often in trials an attorney or witness will say/do something that is inadmissible (ideally, this leads to "objection" from opposing counsel and "sustained" from the judge). Then the jury is told to disregard what they just heard/saw. The problem is that once this inadmissible thing is done, the jury has heard/seen it and the bell can't be unrung. The inadmissible thing is now able to bias the jury.

The Oculus Rift hack mentioned above could be used in court creating a broadcast delay like during a live telecast. This could mean that the court room is set up with various cameras linked to the Oculuses (Oculi?) and the jury is placed in a room out of earshot. If something inadmissible does slip, whoever is controlling the feed can make a quick edit and cut out what shouldn't have happened in the first place. Unlike broadcasting the trial on CCTV, using the Oculus would allow the juror to still interact with the room as if they were there but without hearing/seeing the inadmissible stuff.

There are things that can bias a jury, such as implicit biases, that this idea can't immediately control for. However, diminishing the jury bias around inadmissible information would be a huge feat. 

The cool thing with the Oculus is that for a virtual reality headset, they are pretty cheap and the developer kit is really easy to mod. Now, I just need a judge to be down to try this out.