BEAUFORT, S.C. -- One South Carolina solicitor is advocating a paperless court system.
The Beaufort Gazette reports that 14th Circuit Solicitor Duffie Stone wants to move to an electronic case management system that would make the judicial process virtually paperless from arrest to verdict.
A computer-based system would eliminate rooms filled with case files and hours spent copying court documents. Stone says that, for example, the evidence from a murder trial last October consisted of four crates of evidence as well as two more crates of jury information that has to be stored.
Stone expects to choose soon between two providers to archive old case files electronically.
Stone says the archive system would cost about $90,000 initially. The costs, he said, would come from drug money seized across the circuit, Stone said. He hopes the counties in the circuit would then pay the yearly maintenance costs of about $90,000.
The 14th Circuit is comprised of Beaufort County in addition to Allendale, Hampton, Colleton and Jasper counties.
Stone said there are rooms full of leftover paper files and photos from previous cases around the circuit that have to be kept in the event of appeals. Physical evidence like guns and other items are kept by the law enforcement agencies that made the arrest in a case, said Daniel Brownstein, a spokesman for the solicitor's office.
Stone says the electronic case-management system will also speed preparation for trials allowing evidence and documents to be shared quickly by computer between prosecutors and defense attorneys.
He says defense attorneys would use a password to get access to a site containing trial documents. When the files are accessed, he said, the time it was accessed and by whom would be recorded.
Stone said a time stamp would help eliminate the possibility that a defense attorney did not see files or evidence, something that could make the evidence inadmissible during trial.
Information from: The Beaufort Gazette, http://www.beaufortgazette.com
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