Orange County’s Devshi Mehrotra, while still a student, put her computer skills to use in developing a platform that irons out some of the imbalances faced by public defenders representing financially strapped clients.
The result: a fledgling tech company now in Irvine that’s picked up more than $300,000 in funding.
She and Leslie Jones-Dove, both of whom studied computer science at the University of Chicago, devised a software platform allowing public defenders to use artificial intelligence to sift through audio and video evidence to bolster their case.
“We were both quite upset and frustrated with the state of criminal justice and policing in the city of Chicago,” Mehrotra, the chief executive of Irvine-based fledgling company JusticeText, told the Business Journal on Nov. 11.
“It’s one small solution for public defenders that will have an enormous impact on the lives of the people it exonerates,” she said. She and Jones-Dove, the company’s chief technology officer, graduated last year.
It’s the latest example of tech making inroads into the law. That includes University of California-Irvine School of Law integration of Blue J Legal artificial intelligence into the graduate tax program, as well a tax course built around data analytics software from locally based Alteryx Inc. (NYSE: AYX).
The duo created what they believe to be an easy-to-use audio and video management tool tailored to meet the unique needs and challenges of public defenders.
Their JusticeText audiovisual evidence management software generates automated transcripts of body camera footage, interrogation videos, calls made by suspects when they are detained, 911 calls and more. The system applies natural language processing algorithms to automatically identify key parts of the transcript and enable attorneys to easily generate video clips in preparation for trial or other criminal proceedings.
“In our increasingly technology-dependent criminal justice system, there was an utter lack of technological solutions built with empathy for the communities most directly affected by it,” Mehrotra said in a blog posting
JusticeText has received a $150,000 investment from San Francisco-based venture fund 500 Startups and another $150,000 from Stand Together Venture Labs, officials from both organizations said. The latter is affiliated with Stand Together, the philanthropic organization founded and funded in part by Charles Koch. JusticeText has also received an additional $20,000 in grants.
The platform uses speech-to-text machine learning algorithms to transcribe the video and creates a searchable transcription alongside the video.
“Attorneys go in and upload their evidence. We generate an automated transcript, which is very easy to edit. It’s interactive. You can click on a word just at that part of the video, highlight different words, have a clip be automatically generated, which is very helpful when you’re in trial,” she said.
“The goal right now really is to improve the ease of use,” says Mehrotra. “By making it easier for public attorneys to use audiovisual evidence in their defenses, we believe more people will have a fair shot in the justice system.”
JusticeText is currently operating pilot programs with public defenders’ offices in Texas, Ohio, New York, Nevada, and Washington, D.C.
“We definitely plan to expand beyond public defense itself. Private criminal defense attorneys similarly struggle with this data,” she said. “There’s a much broader market out there that we can certainly tap into.”
The next two years will be focused on government, while the system is “90% ready” to go to market and should be in “tip-top shape” by January.
“There’s a much broader market out there that we can certainly tap into,” says Mehrotra.