Monday, February 23, 2009


From Brooklyn to Montenegro

This item caught my eye because Lidija, who frequently comments here, is from Montenegro, the smallest[1] of the former Yugoslav republics. A Montenegrin[2] is on trial in Montenegro, charged with a murder in Brooklyn in 1990:

On Thursday, witnesses sat in Brooklyn courtroom and spoke into a video camera. Their testimony landed in a courtroom in Montenegro, where Smailj Tulja is on trial for the murder of Ms. Beal, who lived in the Norwood section of the Bronx.

Their words fought echoes, interpreters and occasional troubles with the video feed, as the witnesses were asked, in the occasionally vague style favored by the Montenegrin prosecutors, to remember events that took place decades ago.

We’ll skip the details of the condition of the victim’s body — it’s quite disturbing — and just give the medical examiner’s conclusion:

“The cause of death was listed as homicidal violence of an unspecified type,” Dr. Arden said.

Of course, as someone who specializes in computers and the Internet, I find the dual venue trial to be interesting. And I note that, while it would have been possible back in 1990, when the murder actually happened, it would have been much tougher to pull off. And now, it can be easily held over the Internet — in a number of ways.

Now there are, of course, a variety of commercial teleconferencing systems, such as IBM’s Sametime Unyte, Cisco’s WebEx, and Elluminate, as well as others. There’s Cisco’s high-end system, TelePresence, that would give a real punch to the proceedings. It could even be done in Second Life, or some other virtual world — imagine avatars of prosecutors, defense attorneys, and witnesses moving around a virtual courtroom.

In 1990, the idea was quite far fetched. There was no World Wide Web. The idea that we’d all have laptop computers, that each computer would have high-quality audio and high-definition video, that we’d have the Internet bandwidth to support this sort of thing... was science fiction.

And now, in 2009, this item is on page 19 of the New York Times, barely noticed amid the other news.

[1] If you count Kosovo, the independence of which is in dispute, Montenegro is the second smallest by area, but still by far the smallest in population.

[2] I’d have written “Montenegran”, but the Times spelled it with an “i”, and the CIA World Factbook entry confirms that spelling.


lidija said...

Oh cool. I read about this case some time ago in the Montenegrin newspapers - apparently this guy had lived in the US for a long time and if I'm not mistaken he has been a suspect in several murders of US and Montenegrin women whom he'd marry or date then kill - this was the only one where the evidence was solid enough. He had been living incognito in the suburban area mostly populated by Albanian Montenegrin (this guy being ethnically Albanian, but that isn't relevant really) when he was caught. I think there was a concern that he wouldn't be tried "properly" here or that he'd escape again but acc. to NYT MN does not extradite - who'd known... in any case it is true that this is possible. You know what I miss - having _easy_ video conf. ability here at work.

And since you're reminiscing on the WWW development, I was quite shocked to read that Mosaic started as a research project in 1992, just 2 years before was founded.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Montenego is Italian (the word, I mean). They call their country Crna Gora and themselves Crnagorci. I expect the -IN ending is Italian as well.