Launching Axon Justice: How we’re getting into Good Trouble
Author: Brian Glaister, Head of Justice Solutions
Dec 10, 2021
This week, Axon launched Axon Attorney Premier, the first digital evidence management system designed specifically for prosecutors and defense attorneys. Axon Attorney Premier allows those in the justice system to easily manage various forms of digital evidence, including body-worn video, in-car video, interview room video, CCTV video, photographs, audio, documents and more. By optimizing the discovery process, we empower attorneys on both sides of the system to thoroughly review evidence in less time and in one secure location. In doing so, Axon Attorney Premier will help build a more efficient and more equitable justice system.
There are pivotal moments that shape each of our lives. For me personally, many of these moments took place at Villanova University, where I pursued my bachelor’s degree. I majored in mechanical engineering but spent all of my free time in Villanova’s Center for Peace and Justice studies, where I had the opportunity to build houses in segregated South African townships, visit a prison education program in eastern Pennsylvania and participate in many other eye-opening experiences which helped develop my passion for combining technology and social justice.
There is one experience in particular, however, that really influenced my work here at Axon. In 2001, former U.S. Representative John Lewis spoke on campus. I was one of a lucky few students and faculty to have dinner with this legendary civil rights leader. During his speech, he told us what he had told so many others before (and I’m paraphrasing),
I didn’t realize at the time the deep impression Congressman Lewis’ rallying cry would have on me, but it has served as an inspiration for the work my colleagues and I are pursuing at Axon.
In my career, I’ve been fortunate to pursue both meaningful and impactful work. I co-founded and led a medical device start-up that invented and commercialized wearable technology that has helped tens of thousands of stroke survivors around the world relearn to walk. I’ve designed software to help electric utilities combat climate change. But I can say unequivocally that the work we’re doing in justice at Axon is going to have the largest impact of any work I've done in my career. We are getting into good trouble, and it is making a difference.
In order to determine what Good Trouble to get into at Axon, I spent my first two months on the job conducting hundreds of stakeholder interviews with anyone and everyone I could find connected to justice. I interviewed prosecutors, public defenders, paralegals, judges, law clerks, crime victims, formerly incarcerated individuals, wrongfully convicted individuals, social justice organizations, and others and I asked them to tell me the top three things that keep them up at night. To my surprise, nearly everyone I spoke with was losing sleep one way or another over the same thing - the discovery process.
Discovery is a process in which law enforcement sends evidence to the prosecution who then redacts any personally identifiable information before sending the evidence on to the defense so each side can prepare their case. In a single case, attorneys may have to comb through dozens of hours of body camera and closed circuit television footage, hundreds of digital photos and countless forms of other digital media. While the amount of evidence has grown exponentially over the years, the number of humans working in justice has not. Prosecutors and defense attorneys alike reported spending up to a third of their day keeping track of evidence. And while prosecutors are struggling to keep up with this impossible workload, public defenders often have less than five minutes with a client before making a plea decision. The system is bursting at the seams, to the detriment of everyone connected to the world of justice.
How does a lengthy discovery process have an adverse affect on nearly everyone connected to justice? If prosecutors fail to share evidence with the defense, cases can be dismissed and people who may have committed crimes are then allowed to go free. If defense attorneys miss exculpatory evidence, innocent people can be sentenced to prison for crimes they didn’t commit. The inefficiencies of sharing discovery contribute to lengthy times between arrest and trial, hurting victims who often have to wait years to gain closure on painful experiences and harming the accused, who despite being considered innocent until proven guilty often spend years in jail before facing a jury, at the expense of their wellbeing, jobs, housing and even family. In California, there are currently over 1,300 people who have been in jail for over three years awaiting trial. And when you consider that Black/African American and Latinx defendants are 10-25% more likely than white defendants to be detained before trial and more likely to receive unaffordable bail amounts, discovery is contributing to racial inequities in Justice as well.
From R&D to sales to marketing, every member of our team has played an integral role in building and launching Axon Attorney Premier with an aim to optimize discovery, but we’re not stopping there. We have plans to make our communities safer through reduced recidivism, improve society by combating mass incarceration and save taxpayers billions through saved costs of unnecessary incarceration. Collectively, we’re driven by our customers’ needs and passion to transform justice.
As we roll out Axon Attorney Premier, we’re looking to grow the team significantly. Our team's goal is to build a diverse team that is representative of society at large. If you or someone you know is hungry to work to improve justice, keep an eye on our open positions or DM me directly on LinkedIn- let’s find a way to connect to discuss how you can help us transform criminal justice for the better.
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