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Santa Clara County, CA June 6, 2006 Election
Smart Voter

The District Attorney in the Twenty-first Century

By Karyn Sinunu

Candidate for District Attorney; County of Santa Clara

This information is provided by the candidate
Information technology has made us a model of public law office management; IT innovations will also enhance our overall effectiveness and professionalism.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office of 2006 is vastly different from the office I joined 20 years ago. We lead the way in office management systems, white collar and high tech crime prosecutions and overall professionalism. My goal is to maintain our leadership role in California as the most technologically sophisticated, ethical and professional office in the state.

As would be expected in Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office is, by far, the most technologically advanced public law office in the state. Desk-top computers for every attorney became the standard in 1994. That year I was one of a small group of attorneys and tech experts who planned the transition from paper to electronic data storage. In 1996 we launched CRIMES, our computerized case management system. In 2006 CRIMES acquired capacity to record images and sound, so that now every new case, including police reports and photos, may be filed both on paper (as required for court) and electronically.

Electronic filing has the immediate effect of improving file sharing within our office and expediting discovery (providing defense attorneys with reports and evidence). "Digital discovery" saves time, space and money, creates more durable media, with greater capacity to copy, redact and edit (to protect victim/witness personal identifiers and other privileged information) and to access and use that evidence in court. I am pleased with the progress so far and have plans for more.

My next high tech goal is to expedite preparation of pre-sentence reports that must be filed in court before a defendant is sentenced for a felony conviction. The law requires the Probation Department to file those reports, and Probation depends on the DA to supply the information. Electronic transfer of our files to the Probation Department will greatly reduce time required to prepare those reports and enhance their accuracy.

I also endorse the use of Information Technology (IT) in the courtroom. Juries expect to see as much science and technology in court as they see in popular media. Our attorneys have state-of-the-art IT on their desktops, which enables them to prepare sophisticated laptop-driven presentations to more effectively present their cases in court. Attorneys who need training on preparing a PowerPoint presentation need only click on the training module.

Prosecutorial expertise in IT is best exemplified by one unit I supervise, white collar crimes, a team of lawyers with specialties in trade secrets, consumer, elder and real estate fraud, as well as high tech crime. That unit is supported by a state-of-the-art forensic computer lab, staffed by investigators who can take any computer hard drive, mirror it, preserve it and forensically analyze it. Forensic analysis of computers can do more than solve only high tech crimes.

Just recently, in a domestic violence homicide case, the only remaining "witness" to the activities of the victim and her husband in the 24 hours before he reported her missing was her laptop computer. One of our DA computer lab investigators was able to disprove key elements of the defendant's story by showing what had actually happened on his wife's computer, the precise times of its use, logging on and off activity, sites visited, and the failed attempts to log on with incorrect passwords, at a time after which she was already deceased.

Another application of high tech outside lab is seen on our city streets, in collaboration with regional task force combating auto theft: bait cars. Once "stolen" under the watchful eyes of detectives, these cars do not travel far before detectives remotely lock the bait car doors, shut off the motor and record the comments of the captured thieves. I am proud of our computer lab and what it can do to solve myriad crimes and I will work to expand and strengthen it.

Finally, technological innovation also helps us maintain our standards of ethics and professionalism, while saving taxpayer money. As you know, ethics and professionalism are among my higher priorities, and the DA's office is an authorized provider of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education. Recorded versions of in-house training sessions are available to our attorneys on tape, compact disc and office desktops. We save time and money when attorneys who missed a training session can virtually attend on their desktops, as they have time, instead having to find and pay for classes and workshops off-site.

These are but a few of the technological innovations that enhance our ongoing efforts to provide Santa Clara County with the most ethical and capable prosecutors in the state. I will continue to adapt and adopt cutting edge technologies, while retaining old fashioned values of honesty, integrity and duty to represent the best public safety interests of the people.

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