For the first time in Texas history, a judge in Montgomery County allowed a witness to testify in a murder trial via Skype.
Luis Enrique Rivera was on trial for the robbery and shooting death of Pedro Rodriguez, but the crime scene investigator for that murder scene was in Iraq by the time the trial started.
“We were able to convince the judge to give us an opportunity to use the technology to allow him to confront that witness from inside the courtroom, despite the fact that the witness was overseas defending our country,” said Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Jason Larman.
Defense attorneys for Rivera disagreed with that judge's decision, so they appealed the case.
Appeals court justices in Beaumont agreed with the original decision and allowed the Skype testimony.
“I don't think we were the first to do it and I don't anticipate we'll be the last, but it certainly was a hard fought battle on our end,” said Larman.
Skype testimony has been used in other states when witnesses were unable to appear in court. Video testimonies are also used during some child sexual abuse cases.
Jarvis Parsons will be sworn in as District Attorney in January. He says Skype testimonies are a good way to save court time and money, but at what cost?
“We want to make sure that juries get it right. Juries get it right by not just looking at what a person says on the witness stand, but how they say it and how they look when they say it,” said Parsons.
He says we won't see Skype testimonies in Brazos County yet.
“The worst thing that can happen is if you get out there and you start trying out these new things and the Supreme Court or Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest court in Texas, ends up reversing the case. Then you have to try all those cases over again,” said Parsons.
For now, the Rivera ruling stands. He was convicted of capital murder and he is serving a life sentence without parole.