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Jury Trials Resume after A/V Upgrades at Des Moines County Courthouse

David Hightower
Des Moines County courthouse in Burlington.

Social distancing has made everything more difficult, and gathering jurors for criminal trials has been no exception.  Upgrades in the large courtroom at the Des Moines County Courthouse will allow those trials to run more smoothly.

County Attorney Lisa Schaefer told the Board of Supervisors about several grant-funded audio/visual updates to the large courtroom at the courthouse.

Schaefer said new TV screens have been installed on either side of the courtroom to show body cam and surveillance videos during trials.

"And so now everybody gets to see, so whatever's on the main screen will be on those screens as well." Schaefer also touted an updated speaker system. "There are 18 speakers that run the gambit of the courtroom from front to back… you can actually hear better in the back than the front when you're listening to a video."

Schaefer said the upgrades were necessary because juries have been seated in the main gallery of the courtroom during the pandemic. That gave them space for social distancing but it also meant the court had to call four jurors at a time to view exhibits during a trial.

"This should speed up the process, we only have to play things once," Schaefer said.

Shaefer said the new system will be more efficient and save time for employees, who can focus on more important tasks. "They can concentrate on the things they need to be doing, which is making sure the victims and witnesses are where they need to be."

Schaefer said the first trial to use the new systems began on Tuesday morning, and more are planned over the next several weeks.

This story was produced by Tri States Public Radio.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

David Hightower is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.