Trial Advocacy Through the Use of Electronics in the Courtroom
Today, people see electronic innovations everywhere. From our smartphones and tablets, to our home entertainment systems, people are using more and more electronics everyday. We are all bombarded by electronic messages from television, to electronic billboards and video screens in banks and businesses. We have all become quite accustomed to doing work on computer screens and receiving information on a computer screen.
The jurors who will sit in judgment of your case are most likely to be among the many people who have become so technology friendly. When they sit on a jury, then really need to have the case presented to them through technology, or they are likely to be very dismissive of a case. The television show known as CSI has become so well watched, that even prosecutors have commented are finding that if a case does not have some type of high tech tests. This fact has been reported on by major news organizations such as National Public Radio and Frontline. See http://www.npr.org/2011/02/06/133497696/is-the-csi-effect-influencing-courtrooms .
Not so long ago, attorneys would have pictures printed on paper and put them on an easel in the court room with a thumb pin. Perhaps the pictures would be blown up so that the whole jury could see. To show body parts, an attorney might have had a large poster showing a part of the anatomy or a model of the body part as you might find in a medical school or doctor’s office. Of course, you could also take the client’s MRI films or X-ray films and blow them up and put them on a corkboard on an easel in the court room. In this day and age all of this seems so archaic.
Today attorneys such as myself are using technology to present our cases to the jury in a more 21st century fashion. Today we try to put up all of our evidence on an electronic scree of some kind. We could bring I a large television screen or use a projector and project the evidence onto the screen for the jury. By putting the evidence on the screen, you get the jury’s attention.
When the evidence is on the screen you can point to it as you examine a witness. For instance, if you have a document that contradicts what a witness is saying, you can point to it as you cross examine the witness. If the witness has already said something contrary to what the document says, this becomes a great way to attack with witness’ credibility. Also, if a private investigator has gone to the scene of an accident and taken pictures, you can have him describe the scene to the jury. Or the plaintiff can use the pictures to describe in better detail how the accident happened. When the jury hears the story from the witness while looking at a large picture of the accident scene, the whole accident just becomes that much more vivid for them.
When the evidence is on the screen you can point to it in your summation at the end of evidence. For example, there might be statements in a medical record of a plaintiff’s condition that even the plaintiff has forgotten about. After all, by the time a case gets to trial it could be two to three years after the original injury. But in the medical records the doctor or physical therapist may have recorded what the plaintiff reported to them in a visit right after the injury. By using technology to bring up a picture of that medical record, you can show the jury how on a certain day the client couldn’t turn his head more than a certain amount, or was experiencing loss of memory, or had extreme pain radiating into their extremities. By putting these records up on a screen you can make the jury look at it and see it was part of the record. In the old days, we would have read it out loud during summation, and hoped that they took the time to read it when they went into deliberation. With technology, we know they will see it and consider it.
Very often summation becomes something of a slide show or a power point presentation. The attorney would have to control the power point presentation from a device such as an ipad.
Another area in which technology is very useful is videotaped depositions. A deposition is a discovery tool in which the attorney is allowed to sit down and examine his expert witness or cross examine the other party’s expert witness. This event must be done at an agreed upon or court ordered date and time. A court reporter must be present to take down the testimony of the witness and the questions asked. This process has been around for a long time. However, we now are able to videotape the deposition of the expert witness, and bring the video tape to the trial and show it to the jury. Usually, one or two television screens are set up in the court room and the video is played back for the jury. The people that we bring in as experts are often too busy to come to court, so its easier to take their deposition at a time and place that is convenient for them. Often the experts will charge less if they don’t have to leave their office to do the testimony.
When an attorney is presenting a case to a judge or a jury, that judge or jury must be impressed with the facts. The use of technology in the courtroom only helps to impress the jury. The command of technology only helps to send the message that this attorney really knows what he is talking about, and the jury should bring back the verdict that this attorney is requesting. Alternatively, if the other side is using technology, I certainly would not want to look like an attorney who was still presenting cases the way we did a decade ago.