PATSY R. BRUMFIELD: Texas court 'live' coverage very impressive

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

Two weeks ago, Tupelo looked pretty good in my headlights as I drove the 670 miles home from Houston, Texas.
I’d been there to cover the testimony of former area resident and businessman James M. Davis, who was chief financial officer to R. Allen Stanford.
Stanford is on trial in Houston, charged with 14 counts surrounding an alleged $7.2 billion Ponzi scheme on investors in certificates of deposit through Antigua-based Stanford International Bank.
I’ve written that sentence many times since early 2009, when the financial empire collapsed under the weight of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation.
Davis will not go on trial because he plead guilty in August 2009. He likely will tell his story again in September, during the trial of former Baldwyn native Laura Pendergest-Holt, Stanford’s ex-chief investment official, and three others.
In all exhaustion, I must admit that listening to the trial testimony was like watching a movie. It had all the essentials – greed, sex, foreign travel, intrigue.
One product of my being there may have gone overlooked by some readers, so let me tell you about it.
You can teach an old dog new tricks.
There I was, Senior Patsy, working on the Journal’s laptop computer plugged into a surge protector along the back row of the Houston federal courtroom.
If you’re not so impressed, I’ll elaborate: On that computer screen, I was working sometimes simultaneously on taking down what was said between the lawyers, the judge and the witnesses, posting update-stories to our website, www.djournal.com, writing/responding to emails and posting frequent notes on Twitter.com and Facebook.
I felt like a three-keyboard player in a rock band.
It was an old hat to the Texas reporters, but it was very new and exciting to me.
This Texas “connection” has been a repeated inspiration to me as a reporter who likes to get a story to readers as quickly as possible. Frankly, I always want to have it first.
Thanks to former Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice Ed Pittman, our state courts are very much wide open for electronic reporting. It just depends upon the skill of the reporter and the equipment available to make reports “live.”
Even cameras are allowed, with the proper notice to the presiding judge.
But three years ago, it was different in Mississippi’s federal courts.
When I covered Davis’ guilty plea in August 2009, I discovered the Texas federal courthouse electrication and reported my experience to Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills in Oxford. He and the district’s other federal judges talked about my request to use a laptop computer in their courtrooms and agreed to consider it on a case-by-case basis, without a live feed.
It’s worked well so far, but I can’t help but wish for more, like Texas.
Perhaps it’s an upgrade whose time has come.
Patsy R. Brumfield writes a Thursday column. Contact her at patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com.