RALEIGH, N.C. -- Wake County prosecutor Patrick Latour can search a defendant's criminal history through either of two computer programs. The difference is like switching between Pong and a Wii.
The current system presents page after page of dizzying white letters and numbers on a black background requiring complicated, tedious commands. The state's new system is as simple as ordering pizza online.
Latour, a drug prosecutor, is among a handful of Wake County law enforcement and court officials testing the new database. The system gives users quick access to criminal records across the state, probation information and state prison files; it soon will include county jail records. It even sends an e-mail alert to prosecutors if a defendant in a forthcoming case is arrested again, effectively a "You have jail" message.
Criminal Justice Law Enforcement Automated Data Services, as the system is called, is a direct response to the 2008 slaying of Eve Carson, student body president at UNC-Chapel Hill. Two men charged in the case were on probation. Their earlier offenses while on probation went unaddressed by probation officials partly because of the 1980s-technology computer system now in use that didn't alert them.
"If anything positive can come out of Eve Carson's death," said Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby, "this is attributable to folks in the legislature saying, 'What can we do?'"
What remains unsettling with the new system is that, though it will bring prosecutors light years forward in technology from where they are, it offers the sort of computer capability that online retailers such as Amazon.com deployed a decade ago.
Read the complete story at newsobserver.com