Winnebago County Courthouse
Built in 1937 yet remodeled in the 21st Century, the Winnebago County Courthouse is a beautiful example of Art Deco and International architectural styles adapted to the needs of modern technology.
A common problem in historical buildings is bringing in new technology without disturbing the original style. Yet microphones and other AV devices are more and more of a necessity in the courts, since it’s critical that all participants clearly hear and see what’s going on. Many courtrooms also feature audioconferencing systems to allow testimony and depositions from distant witnesses and sound masking systems to keep juries from hearing conversations that they shouldn’t.
We designed and installed sound systems in two courtrooms in the building. Courtroom 211, illustrated here, includes:
- A Polycom Vortex audio system with telephone interface. The system is designed mainly as a teleconferencer, but given its inputs, outputs and control features, we were able to use it as the basic interface for sound reinforcement, audio recording and playback, and teleconferencing functions.
- Eight Beyer table and gooseneck, mics, used at the judge’s bench, witness box, clerk’s station, court recorder and attorneys’ tables.
- One Audio Technica wireless handheld mic used during jury selection.
- Eight JBL 2142 12″ loudspeakers in two zones.
- A Sennheiser infrared assisted listening system for hearing impaired participants.
- A Denon dual audio cassette recorder.
- A custom input/output panel in the back of the courtroom for the press to tie into the sound system.
- Crestron operating controls, including a wireless touchpanel.
The wireless controls are especially useful in a courtroom, since they allow the judge to control most sound and lighting functions, yet hand it off to the clerk for more time-consuming operations, such as dialing up a remote witness on the audioconferencing system.
The loudspeaker system here is set up to speed trials. Most of the time the audio goes out over all speakers equally, but during an attorney sidebar, the judge can turn off the main speakers and switch the speakers over the jury box to a pink noise generator. The system thus allows the jury to stay in the room, yet ensures that they won’t hear the private discussions of the sidebar.