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Court 1st in nation to text with jurors

– Six months after unveiling an Internet-based jury questionnaire, Allen Superior Court is now adding text messaging to make jury service less confusing.

The program, called “mjuror,” went live in early December and is the first of its kind in the nation, local officials said. The software uses “natural language processing,” which recognizes and interprets the meaning of human speech.

Along with sending standard juror reporting information, such as whether a trial has been canceled, the text messaging system can also receive and answer questions from potential jurors in everyday language – such as questions about where to park, the weather or appropriate courtroom attire.

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull, the administrative judge of the criminal division, is pleased with the newest addition and happy with how the Internet-based questionnaires are functioning.

“It’s surprising, I think, to some people that Allen County continues to be on the cutting edge of technology,” she said, adding that Allen County’s jury system has been on the forefront in technology usage since the early 2000s.

Allen County was invited to participate in Judicial Systems Inc.’s development of the new texting software. In exchange for the county’s collaboration, the software was installed at no cost, according to Allen Superior Court.

In June, the county unveiled a postcard juror notification program that provided potential jurors with the address for a website or a telephone number to use to complete their questionnaires.

At the time, Gull hoped the program would cut postage costs and make the process more efficient and user-friendly.

So far it has been a resounding success, she said.

“It’s gratifying to know people are taking advantage of the technology,” Gull said.