Multi-Media Trial Presentation System
(Published in The Mississippi Lawyer, Vol. XLII, May-June 1997)
By John Booth Farese
“The difference between winning and losing”
Technological solutions in a complex trial can mean the difference in winning and losing. The hardware and software is often available, but how to use this new technology effectively in the courtroom is another area of concern. The integration of the available technology into a user friendly tool for the modern trial attorney will create an advantage that is hard to overcome.
One problem is that there are many attorneys who may need this ability only once or twice a year or once or twice during their entire practice. From a cost prospective, many firms cannot afford the cost associated with hiring a computer specialist and developing such a system; however, it is cost effective and practical to associate a trial specialist who has the equipment and knows how to use it. Remember, it is always in the client’s best interest to put together the best trial team possible to maximize the return for the client.
Any attorney can buy all or parts of a courtroom presentation system, but the integration of the system is critical. You must be able to walk into any shaped and size courtroom and quickly and easily set up your equipment in a way that will enhance your presentation and not detract from it. The equipment must be an effortless extension of the attorney and not just an expensive prop.
Each component of a presentation system can be purchased separately, but the difficulty is integration of the systems so that true multi-media presentations can be made. Elements of a system include:
- Monitors – computer and/or television.
- Speakers – portable.
- Computers – pentium processors with large storage capacity.
- Video players – high quality w/ editing capability.
- Computerized telestrators – for use with parts, documents & photos.
- Video switchers – to be able to preview selected sources and turn selective monitors on and off.
- Audio switchers – to allow preview of audio segments and select sources.
- Video / Audio transmitters and receivers.
- TV Cable connections – where necessary.
- TV stands
- Scanning software to capture documents and photographs.
- Video capture and editing software / hardware.
- Word processing software.
- Video conversion software (from computer to T.V.).
- Software utilities for conversion of graphics.
A system can be expensive if large digital computer monitors are used rather than T. V. monitors. A 30″ digital computer monitor can run $20,000 plus; whereas, quality televisions can be purchased for $250-500 range. Smaller 15″ computer monitors for the judge and attorneys can cost $300-400 each. Computerized telestrators run from $3,500 to $9,000. A middle priced video deck with editing capability will run $1,000-$2,500. A computer with 133 MHz Pentium processor with 20-30 GIG of hard drive space (necessary for video capture) and 32 MEG of ram memory is required. This computer can run $13,000-$15,000 with all the necessary peripherals and specialized hardware. Audio and video equipment will cost approximately $2,000-$2,500. Total software needed for a total system will run about $1,500-$2,000. If a portable system is preferred, then the racks and cases will cost another $2,000-$3,000. You can expect to pay another $5,000-$10,000 or so for a computer technician to integrate and install all hardware and software.
Post-trial evaluations of jurors report that as many as 80% of jurors make up their minds after opening statements. Almost all of us get our news, weather and entertainment from TV. The use of multi-media presentations in a trial is important because it is giving the jurors information in a form that they are conditioned to give their attention . Handling large numbers of photographs in rapid fire fashion so that each juror can see on their own color TV monitor makes the opening statement a powerful, riveting experience for the jury. From opening statement through closing argument, the integrated multi-media presentation can project a smooth, professional presentation of evidence. The calculated use of the principles of primacy and recency dictate that you show the jury the important evidence early in the trial and again and again. By being able to show video clips, photographs and physical evidence throughout the trial, you will have improved your clients chances of winning the case. The ability to produce a “play list” of photos, videos and physical evidence for opening statements, witness examination and closing argument gives the trial attorney the ability to get important evidence before the jury effortlessly. By preparing a “play list” for each defense witness, the astute trial attorney can fashion awesome cross examination, especially of the opposition expert witnesses. It is imperative the you take the depositions of the opposition witnesses’ on video tape; then, the depositions can be computerized into segments for each important question and answer. The impeachment of a witness can be ruinous to the oppositions case, because you have the ability to instantaneous access a specific question and answer without searching hours of video tapes. Computerized video segments allow easy looping of video segments to demonstrate short pieces of a video over and over again. Broadcast quality video allows freeze frame up to 60 fields per second or 30 frames per second. You can stop the action to show important parts of tests that have been made and videoed. If you have local television tapes of your client pinned in the car, you can stop and show the pained expression on your client’s face or his broken arm hanging out side the car door. These computerized clips are available to you at the touch of a button at anytime during the trial.
In cases involving physical objects as evidence, the use of a computerized telestrator can be invaluable. An expert witness can show and demonstrate details of pieces of physical evidence to the jury with ease. The jury can see on their TV monitors as the expert points out and explains minute details on highly magnified photographs.
The opposite party will seem unorganized as they search for photographs and try to show each juror the same pictures or document. Everyone seems to go into slow motion as a picture is passed from juror to juror. The jury resents the slow pace and the appearance of wasting their time. A strategically planned multi-media presentation represents the future of trials. The judges want and expect that the attorneys to be prepared and move a trial along as fast as reasonably possible. If faced with the old method of presenting evidence versus a good multi-media presentation, any judge would option for the faster version. There is no difference in the application of the rules of evidence because the actual photographs, videos and physical evidence are introduced for the record. The only difference is the method that the evidence is presented to the jury in the courtroom. When the jury retires to deliberate, the actual exhibits go with them.
Television has changed the public perception of our justice system. Sensational trials like the O. J. Simpson that are televised have raised the expectations of the pool of jurors to want more than the traditional use of photographs and display of evidence. To hold their attention attorneys must be able to move rapidly from exhibit to exhibit without having to pass each exhibit to the jury.. The judge will applaud the amount of time that is saved. Indexing and pre-marking all exhibits is a must when using a multi-media presentation because it will allow the court reporter mark on the index which exhibits are offered and accepted as trial exhibits. As the exhibits are being shown to the jury in rapid succession, the reporter makes a check on the index showing the introduction of the same. The attorney will become an instant favorite of all of the court reporters. When the jury is told that the actual exhibits will go with them when they retire to decide the case, they will rock back and watch TV. They will be entertained and educated at the same time. When it comes for their deliberation, they will remember the images and the story that was presented. Hearing the spoken word and seeing everything on a T. V. screen enhances a juror’s memory. The clarity and impact of a multi-media presentation will pay dividends. The higher the stakes and the more complex the trial, the more essential it becomes to use this new technology. Use it or it will be used against you and your clients.