Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Technology in the Courtroom: Computerized Exhibits and How to Present Them

Academic journal article Defense Counsel Journal

Technology in the Courtroom: Computerized Exhibits and How to Present Them

Article excerpt

The new and developing worm of models, animations, simulations and trial presentation systems enable litigators to be more efficient and effective

AMERICAN life has become increasingly dependent on computer-based technology. Computers and communication systems are the foundation of many human activities. On nearly every desk in every home or office, computers are used almost every day. With the increasing availability of computers, people are more aware of today's cutting edge technology. With this awareness, they are demanding that this technology be implemented in all walks of life. The judicial system is no exception.

Much of today's computer technology focuses on the widespread dissemination and communication of information. Hence, the term "information superhighway" has become a buzzword for the Internet. This concept is important to attorneys, especially litigators. In fact, communication is the heart of litigation. "Evidence is meaningless if it cannot be transmitted effectively to the fact finder, and from the perspective of the litigator, evidence may be valueless if it is not transmitted persuasively."(1)

In the past, effective and persuasive communication in the courtroom consisted of blowups, transparencies, photographs, charts, and diagrams. As technology has progressed, litigators now use videotapes, computer graphics, computer animations, and other computer-based presentation systems. Rather than a pen and a legal pad, the tools of the trade now include videotape, laserdisc, CD-ROMs, bar codes, light pens, and laptop computers. Rather than an overhead projector or easel, there are large, high-resolution television monitors strategically placed throughout the courtroom.

Computer-related information display systems are important because they provide a means of storing, organizing, and clearly presenting large quantities of information in a relatively inexpensive and easy-to-use format.(2) Evidence and testimony are presented in an aesthetically pleasing and therefore persuasive visual manner. In addition, certain scientific information could not be presented without the use of computer-based trial presentation systems.

These computer-based presentation systems are important, as studies have shown that juries remember 85 percent of what they see, as opposed to only 15 percent of what they hear.(3) It is therefore necessary for counsel to become acquainted with and able to use the available computer technology and computer-based presentation systems.


A. Static Images

Computer-generated evidence will typically fall into four major categories. The first type is static images or still illustrations.(4) These include diagrams, charts, blowups, and illustrations that depict documents, objects, scenes, or mechanisms. In many cases, the document, picture, or object is simply enlarged in color and placed on an easel in the courtroom for viewing by the judge and jury. In other cases, it is scanned or imaged into a computer for later manipulation. The image is regenerated or recreated by the computer, but it does not move. The image is then shown to the judge or jury via a large monitor. The use and admissibility of this type of evidence usually does not create many problems.

B. Animation

The second type is animation. Computer animation is a series of computer-generated images, such as static images or still illustrations that are shown in rapid succession to create the illustration of motion.(5) The computer can rotate objects so they can be shown from different viewpoints. With computer animation, counsel can enlarge small detailed areas or objects viewed from a distance. Examples of computer animation include the computer-generated tornadoes in the recent movie "Twister," as well as simple computer cartoons used by Walt Disney. A key aspect of computer animation is the lack of intent to recreate or simulate an actual event. …

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