Murder trial goes on Net

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The Independent Online
AN AMERICAN trial is to be broadcast over the Internet in the latest example of how the technology can be used to spread information.

Shirley Egan, 68, was due to go on trial yesterday charged with fatally shooting her daughter, Georgette Smith, after the latter had discussed putting Mrs Egan in a nursing home. Ms Smith, 42, was paralysed from the neck down and petitioned a judge to have her life-support system terminated. She gave a deposition to the court and was then allowed to die.

The case sparked a great deal of public interest and court officials in Orange County, Florida, decided to use the trial as the first test of their wired courtroom.

It is the first time that a court has itself organised such broadcasts, although many others have been put online by commercial broadcasters. Court television is a staple of the American cable television system and using the Internet is a logical extension.

Virtually everything that can be put on the Internet is going online. It is already usual practice for large companies and the United States government to hold press conferences online, for instance. The wealthy publisher Steve Forbes, one of the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president, launched his campaign online.

Because the Internet is no longer a novelty and is a staple tool of media use as much as television, putting the trial online caused relatively little comment in the US. "We look at it as a way of making a public proceeding even more public," said Matt Benefiel, the Orange County court administrator.

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