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How Kansas public defender Sam Allison-Natale leveraged JusticeText to surface critical evidence buried within hours of footage

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About the Kansas Holistic Defenders

The Kansas Holistic Defenders is an innovative non-profit public defender organization serving the Douglas County, KS community. They couple holistic, client-centered support with cutting edge practices to prevent unnecessary and wrongful incarceration, while addressing the root causes of involvement in the legal system.

Sam Allison-Natale is the founder and executive director of Kansas Holistic Defenders. Prior to this, Sam worked as an attorney at the Bronx Defenders as well as the Law Firm of Bath & Edmonds in the Kansas City area. Sam earned his J.D. from the NYU School of Law.

John Baker is a public defender at Kansas Holistic Defenders, a recent law graduate from Washburn University School of Law, from Salina, Kansas.

Working toward a more just world

Public defense is in Sam Allison-Natale’s blood — both of his parents were public defenders, providing Sam ample exposure to the injustices of the criminal system. After the Occupy Wall Street movement, Sam decided to go to law school and practice as a movement lawyer, advocating for clients as a public defender and organizing for better conditions for their communities. He founded Kansas Holistic Defenders in 2021 to fill a critical gap in the Douglas County community, bringing best practices in holistic defense from previous work at the Bronx Defenders.

John Baker is a staunch advocate for racial and economic justice and intended on practicing labor law — that is until he met Sam organizing in the wake of George Floyd’s death. He became inspired by the mission and the innovative, holistic model of Kansas Holistic Defenders. John joined Kansas Holistic Defenders shortly after law school and worked on behalf of the Douglas County community ever since.

Efficiency means better outcomes, inside and outside of court

The Kansas Holistic Defenders are a small team that work with a high volume of clients and cases every day. Each client that they serve is facing one of the most challenging moments of their life. Sam, John and team are committed to supporting each and every client, yet they know that statistically only about 10% of cases will ultimately go to trial.

To deal with this unpredictability, the team needs to be optimally prepared for each case. If they under-prepare, they won’t earn the case outcomes their clients deserve. Yet if they over-prepare, they won’t have the resources to provide the wraparound, holistic support — like connecting clients to services or driving a client to appointments — that can help address underlying needs and truly help them get out of the system. Therefore, efficiency is the name of the game.

JusticeText enables efficient discovery review

For Sam and John, JusticeText is critical for efficient discovery review. They use JusticeText to get to what Sam calls a “minimum viable prep.”  

When presented with voluminous footage in a given case, they upload this data to JusticeText to generate automated transcripts of each interaction. These time stamped transcripts serve as the foundation for their review and allow them to begin crafting cross examination chapters immediately. 

Sam explained, "Only 1 in 10 cases set for trial will actually go to trial, but you don't know in advance which one — JusticeText lets you get eyes on all of the video and prepare cross examination chapters for all the cases." 

As John and Sam review discovery on JusticeText, they often find critical moments that redefine the theory of the case. The moments might be buried in an offhand remark – like an officer admitting that a preliminary breath test was not accurate – yet can influence the case in meaningful ways.  

“JusticeText lets you get eyes on all the video and prepare cross examination chapters for all the cases.”

Finding hidden evidence that shifts the case

The Kansas Holistic Defenders had a DUI case that ultimately hinged on whether or not their client was driving. Previous conversations suggested their client was not driving, yet the limited discovery available made it difficult to prove. They did have a three-hour video from a dashboard camera, but the car was parked far away from the scene, and loud wind made it difficult to understand what was happening. Sam reflect that "it would be incredibly difficult to extract anything good from this without machine assistance.”

To deal with this challenge, John uploaded the video to JusticeText. He did a keyword search of the automated transcript and discovered key evidence, hidden in a moment when it seemed like nothing was happening in the video. At this moment, an officer had just talked to a key witness. The officer’s conversation with this witness revealed that the client was not in fact driving the vehicle. This provided critical evidence, ultimately proving their theory of the case. John shared that JusticeText was critical to finding this moment:

“After an hour and a half reviewing that terrible audio, I still could not exactly make out what the officer on the radio was saying without reading the language that JusticeText had given me. It's just mind numbing. And so I probably overlooked it the first time.”

“It would be incredibly difficult to extract anything good from this without machine assistance.”

Leveraging the latest advancements in AI

In recent months, JusticeText has incorporated some of the most innovative breakthroughs in machine learning to further improve the discovery review process. Sam and John shared two tools that have already been helpful to their practice.

Early in the review process, Sam uses transcript summaries to organize and prioritize discovery review. JusticeText provides automated 3-5 sentence summaries of each piece of discovery, using natural language processing to identify the key topics of conversation. Sam has found this helpful in understanding what’s contained in a file before diving in, especially when faced with a lot of poorly-labeled files.

In addition, Sam and John used MirandaAI, a ChatGPT-powered tool that lets attorneys ask questions about their discovery and receive answers backed up by specific timestamps in the file. Sam has used this to identify key moments, asking questions like “When does this person make threats?” to get a timestamped summary of those moments as a starting point. 

John has also found that MirandaAI gives him extra capacity. He uses the tool like an extra colleague, asking the tool to surface key moments after he’s already done a first pass. He uses this second review to double check that he found all the important moments and ensure he hasn’t missed anything critical in the file.

An indispensable tool

Sam and John have come to rely on JusticeText as a critical part of their practice. John reflected on his first weeks in the office, when he would watch video on VLC player and take handwritten notes.

“I can’t imagine not having JusticeText now, it’s a real game changer. We have so much more capacity for cases and we're doing a better job on those cases for our clients.”

Sam reflected on the value of JusticeText during trial. Sitting at the counsel table in court, he has many apps and tools that he could have open on his laptop. Of all the tools, Sam ensures that he keeps JusticeText open during testimony, as he sits ready to quickly search across discovery, identify contradictions, and prepare clips for cross. He added, "We have a lot of tools - JusticeText is the tool that I’m using during trial.”

"I can’t imagine not having JusticeText now, it’s a real game changer."

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"JusticeText enables THE process innovation that allows us to push things as many things as we do and as aggressively as we do."

Sam Allision-Natale

Sam Allison-Natale

Founder and Executive Director, Kansas Holistic Defenders
  • What they needed

    • Efficiently review voluminous discovery
    • Identify key moments to inform the theory of the case
    • Prepare video clips in anticipation of trial
  • What they did

    • Use JusticeText transcripts to jump right into cross chapters on first review
    • Use search and MirandaAI to identify the most critical, subtle moments
    • Create video clips in seconds by highlighting text in the transcript

Is JusticeText Right For You?

If you are an attorney looking to make sense of high volumes of audiovisual discovery, there are many ways in which you can utilize JusticeText to streamline your pre-trial preparation process. Reach out today to learn about how you can get started with JusticeText.