Courts go high-tech with new equipment

Officials hope new system enhances security

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Calvert County Circuit Court just entered the technological telecommunication world of the 21st century by installing video equipment in Courtroom 1. During its first day in use on July 23, the equipment worked without any technical difficulties.

The new equipment was set up on the evening of July 22, said Wanda Mudd, court administrator, and it was used the next morning at 8:30 a.m. for a bond hearing. The court purchased it with a grant from the Maryland Administrative Office of the Court and matching county funds, she said.

‘‘It’s a definite security enhancement,” Mudd said. It also saves money since the county will not have to transport people from the Calvert County Detention Center, she said.

Judge Marjorie Clagett presided over the televised bond hearing in Courtroom 1, while defendant Daniel Cates, on probation and picked up on a warrant for allegedly not passing a drug test, was being held at the detention center, and defended himself in front of the camera.

In the courtroom, the flat screen showed Cates seated at the detention center flanked by two guards, as he told Clagett that he had not used drugs and requested a retest of the sample, citing inaccuracies in drug tests.

The courtroom camera moved back and forth between Clagett and Assistant State’s Attorney Francis Longwell, who said that Cates should remain in custody.

After Cates pleaded his case, Clagett agreed to allow a retest and told him to submit a second sample prior to leaving the detention center, and continue in drug treatment and remain on supervised probation pending the results of the drug test.

After her judgment, Clagett said, ‘‘Day one of our new video equipment and it worked out fine.” Longwell said she agreed that the teleconference bond hearing went smoothly.

The court will use the video equipment for bond hearings and ‘‘body attachments,” which is after a defendant fails to appear for a court date and they are brought in on a warrant, as well as bail reviews and purge reviews, Mudd said. A purge review is scheduled when someone is picked up for not paying a court ordered amount, and the case is then reviewed by a judge and the defendant is ordered to pay a specific amount in order to be released from the detention center, Mudd explained.

Video equipment was installed in the Calvert County Board of County Commissioners’ room at the district court a month ago and is used for bond hearing and bail reviews, she said.

Calvert County Detention Center Administrator Milton Crump said the biggest help the video equipment gives it is that it lessens the transports to court and back.

‘‘With less transports, it’s always safer,” he said.