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Can a noisy air conditioner strain the quality of justice?

''Yes,'' say University of Michigan researchers. A recent study of Michigan courts found that the majority of facilities have design problems ranging from leaky roofs to inadequate storage.

The study says problems such as poor acoustics--which can affect the accuracy of court transcripts and the ability of judges and juries to hear testimony-- ''impede the delivery of justice.'' In 76 percent of the facilities, prisoners must use public corridors to get to the courtroom. Their very visibility, the study argues, can affect a jury or judge's perception of their innocence.

The problem may not be limited to Michigan. Investigators suggest that their conclusions may hold for other states as well.

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