Bay City Downtown federal courthouse receives upgrades

By MacKenzie Burger

BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) -- Bullet holes marking a federal courthouse wall -- the result of shotgun ammunition that narrowly missed Judge Frank Picard during a 1956 trial -- were covered up almost 20 years ago.

Recently, the federal courthouse in downtown Bay City saw different renovations wrap up in the courtroom: much-needed technology updates.

"There are two projects -- the first being major renovations of courtroom technology to accommodate evidence presentation," said U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington. "There is also a renovation of our offices that support court operations."

Courtroom upgrades include annotation devices for counsel members and the witness stand, a control panel for the judge, five monitors for the jury box and two large-screen monitors mounted on opposite walls.

"Evidence might be a video of an arrest taken by a police officer, a blueprint, map or transcript of an undercover sale of a controlled substance," Ludington said. "If a witness asks where suspect x, y or z was located, there is now the ability to use a touch screen monitor to depict where suspect x, y or z was."

Attorneys recently used an iPad to present all the evidence in a case for the first time in the courtroom. Jurors used the technology to view evidence that chronicled electronic events and money transfers in a case of suspected mail fraud.

"The goal is to simplify what otherwise could be a complicated portrayal of events or a location," said Suzanne Gammon, judicial assistant. "Without documents rustling around, there is much less distraction for the jurors."

Ludington said the cost of the courtroom renovations is about $200,000.

"The plan was to update the space for today's needs, but keep it flexible enough to adapt in the next 10 years for additional changes as a practical matter," Ludington said.

The office renovations -- which are projected to wrap up in July -- include relocating the pre-trial, probation and clerk's offices in the building and the addition of a training room and fitness room. The cost is estimated at $1.2 million.

Other changes include installing period-style lighting, restoring wood handrails, and an updated jury room and entrance area. Electrical updates to the court and installation of a new server system to accommodate electric filing were also completed.

"The decision of court management to make an investment in the northern division of the Eastern District shows their acknowledgement of Bay City," Ludington said. "Funding was allocated to the court from Congress -- they could have expended funds in Detroit or Saginaw, for example, instead."

Aesthetic touches to the courthouse will include a historic portrayal of the court's history in downtown Bay City and a group of paintings depicting Captain Benjamin Boutell's Bay City fleet of ships.

Construction and renovations on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan began last summer.

Planning for the project began four years ago. For some of the areas in the courthouse, built in 1937, the renovations slated for completion this year will be the first.

Published: Wed, Feb 29, 2012


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