New Courtroom Tactic: 3-D Images, Friend or Foe?

I turn away from the video simulation, tears swelling in my eyes. The images from this exhibit have shaken me to my core and I am fairly certain that I have already made up my mind on what my vote is, even before the closing statements.

Litigation support services such as 3-D images and video simulation are a rising commodity in trial preparation and in the courtroom. Companies are offering graphic artist and computer animating services to recreate the injury or basis for the claim. Some of the 3D visualizations include accident reconstruction, surgical procedure recreation and still 3-D medical diagrams and illustrations. In some cases, the animations are accompanied by background music to increase the mental stimulation and bring the dramatization to a higher level. Realistic and often graphic images and videos can play a vital role in the emotional determination of the jurors.

Living in a society where we are barraged with advertisements and television is one of our favorite pastimes, it is not surprising to learn that, “jurors retain very little, perhaps as little as 20 percent, of what they hear. The retention rate goes up significantly, to as high as 60 percent, when they see something, and research has proven that jurors retain over 80 percent of what they simultaneously hear and see.”[1] Regardless of whether it is the plaintiff or defendant who has opted to invest in cutting edge courtroom graphics, these 3-D images and videos may be extremely persuasive in swaying the jury toward the desired outcome.

With a growing population of over 76 million, the “generation Y” individuals are now entering the work force. These techno-savvy young adults have grown up with computers, text messaging, iPods and instant access to information. In the future, the jury box will become increasingly full with the 21st century occupants, and advanced technology may become of absolute assistants.

Switch to another courtroom situation: I am watching a poorly constructed 3-D reenactment in a property dispute. The simulation has, in fact, created more confusion for me about the facts than I had before seeing the video. I feel that it has made it harder for me to determine who is negligent in this situation.

Although these animations can be extremely helpful, where they are poorly executed, their use can be counter-productive. The main function of these simulations is to take complicated and technical facts and turn them into visually dynamic, clarifying and cohesive trial evidence. If the facts are not brought to life in a way that is easily understood by the jury, these visual aids can act as an enemy and have the potential to negatively sway the jury. The bottom line: make sure your exhibits act as a friend, not a foe.

[1] American Bar Association. The Journal Of The Section of Litigation Vol. 27 No. 3 Spring 2001 pgs 41-44.

Author: Stephanie F. Hedrick, Client Relations

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