American criminal trials have gripped the attention of information-hungry spectators though every medium--and the Net is no exception.
As of tomorrow, lawyers, journalists, and other followers of the Oklahoma City bombing trials can sign up with a Denver-based software company, PubNETics, to have transcripts of the trial delivered to them twice a day by email or by logging on to a password-protected Web site.
The Net has already been used to deliver up-to-the minute news, archives of reports and chat rooms about high-profile cases such as both of O.J. Simpson's trials. Transcripts of the Simpson criminal and civil trials were also available online both for free and at a cost.
PubNETics service costs $749 per month plus the federal court's charge of $1 per transcript page, with an estimated 6,000 pages generated per month. The high demand for online transcripts promises to make it profitable, especially in more celebrated cases.
U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch has barred the media from broadcasting live television and audio feeds from the courtroom. Working for the court, PubNETics will deliver transcripts two hours after the court reporter's afternoon recess and again at the end of the day. Transcript text will be searchable and will include links to background information.
Although the company is offering the service before the trial, it is gearing up for the start of alleged bomber Timothy McVeigh's case March 31. The trial is expected to draw more than 3,000 reporters. Only 30 reporters, to be chosen by lottery, will be allowed in the courtroom each day.
"We act as the agent for the court reporter, he could have never got it out this fast," PubNETics CEO Marty Steinberg said today. "We have over 50 subscribers signed up for launch, and expect more as the McVeigh trial nears."
Court TV has been posting updated sites containing transcripts and news stories for some time. The Simpson and Oklahoma City bombing trials have Court TV sites, as do the cases of the Menendez brothers and accused Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski.
"Court TV took 12 to 24 hours to get that information up there," Steinberg said. "Court TV is working with us for the Oklahoma bombing trials."
But the Net isn't used just for the sake of getting trial information out quickly.
Several Web sites have been created to remember victims, and offer support for survivors of the April 19, 1995, bombing of Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which left 168 people dead, including 19 children. Sites include: Explosion in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City Online Resources, The American Psychological Association, and Families and Survivors United .