Orange County, Fla., Broadcasting Trial Via the Internet

Florida's Orange County Circuit Court began to broadcast a trial via the World Wide Web Monday, marking the first time a state court has transmitted its official proceedings live over the Internet.

The court will transmit a live video feed of the trial of Shirley Egan, 68, who is charged with attempted murder in the shooting of her 42-year-old daughter, Georgette Smith, in the neck last March when Smith and her boyfriend discussed putting her mother in a nursing home.

Smith was paralyzed from the neck down and later successfully petitioned the court to terminate her life-support. Egan has said the shooting was an accident and was saved from having the charge upgraded to murder when Smith forgave her when requesting her life-support be terminated.

Court TV and other media organizations have broadcast trials on the Web, but the Orange County courtroom is the first to stream its affairs on the Internet.

The newly renovated courthouse has its own server and fiber-optic network, enabling it to become a pioneer in Internet broadcasting. "We provide the feed, and it's up to the media to decide which camera will be used for the broadcast," said court administrator Matt Benefiel.

Benefiel noted that Florida has very liberal legislation regarding cameras in the courtroom. "In the three years I've been here, a judge has never not allowed a camera in the courtroom, as long as they meet statutory requirements" he said.

"The nice thing about this is that the judge [A. Thomas Mihok] already pre-approved the camera in the courtroom," Benefiel said, so they had advanced notice that this trial could be put on the Internet.

The courthouse system operates on a Dell Computer Corp. PowerEdge 220 server, and all 43 courtrooms are able to broadcast trials on the Web. One room, Number 23, has seven broadcast-quality cameras installed for videoconferencing and remote testimony. It is the only room that does not need a media camera to link to the system.

Each floor of the courthouse operates on a Cisco Systems Inc. hub that supports 10M switched ports for every computer.

The Egan trial is being held in room 9D, and can be seen on the Web through the Orange County Courthouse's site at www.ninja9.org.

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