The use of technology is ever present in society, and accordingly, the judicial system has followed suit. New technology can streamline the legal process and make it more accessible to people. Video testimonies and live internet streams allow witnesses and lawyers from all over the country to testify in a case.
At its core, the interaction of people enhances the legal process. Machines can’t determine right or wrong; this is best done by humans. However, when it comes to courtroom technology, have we gone too far? Can you use too much technology in the average American courtroom?
How to Tell If There is Too Much Technology in a Courtroom
If you’re an attorney using technology in a trial, you can determine if your use of technology is effective in several ways. You should pay attention to these indicators and make adjustments as needed to your technology strategy.
Observe the jury or judge in your case as you are using technology. If your digital exhibits or extensive use of technology seems to distract or confuse the jury or judge, then you are using too much. You might overwhelm a courtroom with too many digital details that you feel are important but that actually offer no value to your case.
While we would all rather have live testimony at trial it is not always feasible. However, we need to be cognizant that the constant use of video technology in the courtroom can also take away one of the key elements of any case: establishing the credibility of not only a witness but your case in total. When a witness is being questioned or cross-examined, the jury will be watching for physical cues that could detract from the witness’s credibility. For example, a witness who averts his or her eyes while answering a question could create a sense of doubt about their answer with the jury. But when the jury watches that same testimony on video, there is a certain aspect of human relations missing. Supplement video testimony with live testimony or use of summary demonstatives.
If you are using videos and images as the foundation of your timeline, the jury might struggle to keep track of your chronology, especially if you present images and videos that are out of order. Instead, you should establish a solid timeline by presenting the case to the court and augmenting it with relevant images and videos. Otherwise, the jury won’t be able to follow a logical flow of what happened in your case.
Best Practices for Developing Trial Graphics
When you do decide to utilize graphics at your next trial, use these tips to create strong graphics to effectively communicate your points and enhance your overall presentation.
Your images and photos should be accompanied by text labels, where possible, to help zero in on critical details in your presentation. Text in court graphics should be provided in at least 18-point type or, better still, even larger. Colors should be selected for high contrast so text is legible. For example, if possible, put the text in a naturally dark section of the image to make it stand out. Additionally, incorporate a contrasting background patch, either white or light colors with dark letters, or better, black or dark colors with white/light letters where it won’t obscure key image information. Importantly, do not overload demonstratives or photos with text so your point is made at a glance. For trial, always include exhibit numbers on the slide when one is used.
The graphics you use should enhance your presentation by giving an at-a-glance visual representation of the story you are telling. Adding elements to photos, to draw attention to details, such as circles, text and arrows, should be done in consistent colors and styles to allow the jury to focus on key evidence and its significance in your trial. Do not use too many symbols and arrows so your jurors will be lost. Complicated diagrams and material should be broken into multi-slide or animated builds so they can be understood more readily.
You can also help make your slides easier to read by avoiding too much text and other elements that detract from your message. When adding descriptive text, use words that are easily understood and that support your presentation. If it is not legible, enlarge it, or remove it.