DuPage County Public Defender adopts high-tech solution for video evidence review

Dupage courthouse

Posted September 19, 2022

JusticeText is thrilled to announce a new partnership with the DuPage County Public Defender. Located just west of Chicago, the office has 48 staff members — 33 of which are attorneys. The office will now be using the JusticeText platform to analyze critical audiovisual discovery, including a large volume of body camera footage. 

Indigent defense in DuPage County, and the state of Illinois more broadly, is at an inflection point. A recent study by the Illinois Supreme Court concluded excessive caseloads are inhibiting public defenders from meeting their constitutional obligations. Josh McGhee of Injustice Watch connected with a public defender in DuPage County who said he generally only has the time to review 70% of the evidence shared by the prosecution. The state of Illinois will be eliminating cash bail in 2023; public defenders, prosecutors, police, and local government officials alike are trying to minimize unnecessary incarceration while ensuring the community remains protected from credible threats. 

JusticeText CEO Devshi Mehrotra and CTO Leslie Jones-Dove met as college students at the University of Chicago, and they built the JusticeText platform in direct response to the needs of Illinois public defenders. Given the company’s roots in Illinois, and the fact that the state’s public defenders are in dire need of additional support, JusticeText is proud to be helping the DuPage County Public Defender review, catalog, and analyze crucial audiovisual discovery.

Digital evidence is playing a significant role in the work of DuPage County’s public defenders. Chief Public Defender Jeff York says, “We are given a mountain of work to do in a short amount of time. We’ll get a series of jail calls from our client in jail dumped on us maybe a day or two before trial. And the state won’t necessarily identify what they plan on using, maybe because they haven’t reviewed it yet either.” On January 1, 2023, the Illinois statewide body camera mandate for law enforcement will take effect; this will only increase the volume of digital discovery that Jeff’s team needs to review in preparation for trial. 

Prior to the JusticeText partnership, DuPage County Public Defender attorneys and staff had little choice but to review audiovisual evidence manually. “A few months ago, there was a misdemeanor case in which the state gave us dozens of hours of jail calls a few days before trial. While the primary attorney was preparing examinations and statements, eight people were in the office listening to all of the calls by-hand — trying to find the stuff that might hurt the client at trial,” Jeff noted. Recognizing just how frustrating this was to all involved, Jeff was excited when he first heard about JusticeText from a public defender peer in another Illinois office. 

"The JusticeText automated transcript will give us a lot more than what we’re starting with now, which is a blank piece of paper. Cleaning up the output will be much quicker than creating the whole thing from scratch."

In addition to faster transcription, Jeff looks forward to the use of the video clipping capability embedded within the transcript editor, which will allow attorneys to isolate key moments and present them in the courtroom when cross-examining witnesses.

The JusticeText team looks forward to supporting the crucial work of the DuPage County Public Defender and making progress toward the ultimate goal of ensuring all Americans have access to quality legal representation regardless of income. 

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"Public defenders are always at a disadvantage, and anything to help level the playing field would help the job satisfaction of our attorneys. Without a tool like JusticeText, it would be hard to retain attorneys who have to mind-numbingly watch six hours of video for a misdemeanor criminal damage case."

Jeff York

DuPage County Public Defender

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.