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How Texas public defender Kameron Johnson used JusticeText to challenge the prosecution's narrative in a juvenile murder trial

Kameron spotlight (8)

About the Travis County Juvenile Public Defender

The Travis County Juvenile Public Defender Office represents young people aged 10-16 in one of the largest counties in Texas, which includes the city of Austin. The office was formed in 1971 and is the oldest of three institutional public defender offices serving the county.

A deep-seated commitment to racial justice

Kameron Johnson is a veteran public defender who brings more than 30 years of experience in the field. He most recently served as the head of the Travis County Juvenile Public Defender's Office.

Kameron began working in indigent defense after realizing that the overpolicing of people of color doesn’t just start in the adult system. Instead, there is a pipeline of young people traveling through the juvenile system to the adult system. He recalled a particularly stark moment that brought this to light.  

“The first time I went to a juvenile detention facility, I saw all the youth of color sleeping on the floor of the overcrowded facility and it just broke my heart — it made me want to do this great work.”

 In April 2023, Kameron stepped down from this role after more than 20 years of service. He continues to work tirelessly to defend people facing the criminal justice system as a managing partner at Johnson Roberts LLP.

"I saw all the youth of color sleeping on the floor of the overcowded facility and it just broke my heart."

Addressing a resource gap

It’s no secret that public defenders often lack the resources of their prosecutorial counterparts. Reflecting on the systemic challenges of this work, Kameron shared, “The greatest frustration is that we don’t always get the resources that we need to be able to do the good work that we do.”

As The New York Times and the Guardian have reported on, this resource gap often shows up as disproportionate access to technology between proseuction and defense, which can have serious negative consequences for indigent clients. 

Most recently, as the justice system has embraced tools like body cameras, this technology has created challenges for already overworked public defenders like Kameron. Public defenders are expected to spend hundreds of hours reviewing footage from these cameras in order to surface all potentially exculpatory evidence and provide effective counsel to their clients — all while juggling excessive caseloads.

To address this challenge, Kameron and his team brought in JusticeText. By uploading video evidence directly into the platform, the Juvenile Public Defender Office has been able to quickly filter through an extremely high volume of evidence, identify key moments, and bring out the most critical pieces to mount a strong defense for his clients.

“The greatest frustration is that we don't always get the resources we need."

Using JusticeText to prepare for trial

JusticeText proved to be a helpful tool in a recent case involving a 16-year-old boy accused of murder. The case went to trial, and Kameron needed to navigate an extraordinary body of evidence, including interrogation videos, surveillance videos, and even cell phone videos in multiple languages. He faced tight timelines — as the prosecution added charges just weeks before trial — and turned to JusticeText to help.

Kameron uploaded this high volume of audio and video discovery to JusticeText to produce automated transcripts of the interactions in minutes. His team searched across files for key terms — like “gun” or key witnesses’ names — to quickly and effectively hone in on the essential moments in the videos. Kameron also found the transcripts to be particularly useful when reviewing cell phone videos with Spanish dialogue, as he himself was a non-native Spanish speaker.

This faster discovery review was critical in helping the defense establish their theory of the case — that a key witness for the state was actually responsible for the crime, not their client.

As the trial approached, Kameron and team used JusticeText to produce video clips of key interactions in anticipation of the state's case. During trial, they successfully used many of these video clips to impeach a key witness and cast doubt on the allegations against their client.

Impact to the practice

Kameron noted that using JusticeText to prepare evidence and mount his defense felt like one of the rare times that he felt ahead of the prosecution. He said, “What we were able to do using JusticeText was not just become on par but actually exceed the state from a technological capacity perspective.”

In the coming years, Kameron believes that this will be even more critical as every case has digital evidence — from body cam videos to interrogation videos and even telephone forensics. As Kameron explained, “Every attorney and investigator needs this — we cannot handle today’s cases and investigations without utilizing this technology.” 

As the demands of high caseloads and increasing volumes of digital evidence put pressure on our country’s public defense system, it is crucial that every public defender has access to the resources, funding, and support necessary to best defend their clients. 

"Every attorney and investigator needs this — we cannot handle today’s cases and investigations without utilizing this technology."

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"This raises the bar. The expectation is to be able to do this type of video evidence review on all of our cases. And we have the power and the resources to do it now."

Kameron johnson

Kameron Johnson

Former Travis County Juvenile Public Defender
  • What he needed

    • Quickly parse through an extraordinary amount of video
    • Collaborate to prepare evidence in a time crunch
    • Share snippets of long videos in a compelling way
  • What he did

    • Uploaded videos to JusticeText and keyword search to find critical moments
    • Made time-stamped annotations on files in shared workspaces
    • Created clips in seconds to share with the jury

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.