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U.S. District courtroom dedicated in Martinsburg

November 13, 2000|By BOB PARTLOW

U.S. District courtroom dedicated in Martinsburg



MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The latest in high-tech courtroom wizardry was on display Monday as the new court room for the U.S. District Court was dedicated here.

Jurors will be able to see exhibits and displays on flat-screen computers in front of them. Attorneys can plug in computers at their desks and receive nearly instant transcripts of what has just been said in the courtroom.

They also will have new technology to display their exhibits and evidence, including use of a state-of-the-art podium that can serve as the base for a highly sophisticated overhead projection that will appear on computer screens or on the automatic pull-down screen across from jurors.

The oak-paneled benches and woodwork are new, as is the carpeting and the inscription from John F. Kennedy that wraps around the courtroom.

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"It's truly amazing," said U.S. District Court Judge Irene Keeley.

U.S. District Judge Craig Broadwater, who will use the courtroom, noted the many new features and the need for the update. The courtroom was finished in 1961 and no upgrades had been made when he took over as the first full-time federal judge in the region in 1996.

"It was just inadequate for a full-time judge," he said.

He and many others worked on the upgrade. They even recycled the old courtroom, taking it apart carefully so the Berkeley County Circuit Court could use it rather than build a new one.

"They will have a shell of a courtroom" to use, he said.

Although the equipment is new, the way justice is dispensed should not be, said U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., on hand for the dedication.

"How strong is your moral compass?" will still be the question judges must wrestle with as they sort through the conflict claims made in court cases, Rockefeller said. He (Broadwater) has that sense of what a moral compass is, that sense of right and wrong."

Work continues on rehabilitation of the rest of the Federal Building and former courthouse. It eventually will house more courtroom space and facilities for the U.S. Marshal's Office.

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