Do Jurors and Judges Really Need to See Your Evidence?

The answer is yes, and courtroom presentation software can help you do it.

Not only do they need to see or hear it, but they need to understand, retain and recall it.  Whether we like to admit it or not, we live in an era where audiences expect a multi-media show every time they sit for a presentation.  Jurors and judges are no different, whether they are in a small town or a large city.  The question for trial lawyers becomes how do they present the facts of their case, and their client’s story, but do it in a way that grabs people’s attention?  We believe that courtroom presentation software should be an integral part of your litigation support toolbox.

While there may be a certain charm to writing with chalk on a blackboard or placing a piece of paper on an Elmo (a document camera), these options limit how a lawyer can present evidence in the courtroom.  For example, an attorney can only put a piece of paper on an Elmo if they have that piece of paper readily available, but they have no control over what part of that document the fact finder is focusing on during the evidence presentation.

A lawyer can only write so quickly, or so much, on a whiteboard/chalkboard, and the marked-up document may not get entered as an exhibit or taken back to the jury room.

With trial presentation software, an attorney can have available to present in court the critical evidence they want, as long as the documents, videos or audio files have been pre-loaded onto a laptop they plan to use at the hearing, motion or trial.

What is courtroom presentation software? It is a program that allows you to pull up a document for the jury/judge to view and blow up a word, line or paragraph on which the attorney wants the jury/judge to focus.  An example of such a program that is specifically designed for use in the courtroom is TrialDirector.  Besides the above example, TrialDirector is a media player, giving you the ability to pause a portion of a video or audio file for emphasis.

A lawyer using TrialDirector can compare documents side-by-side or point out important differences/similarities in documentary, photographic or video evidence.  TrialDirector can also be your virtual trial binder, allowing you to organize your materials for quick and easy presentation in the courtroom.  All of these techniques can be done with just a few keystrokes.

Another common presentation program that has been adapted for use in the courtroom is PowerPoint.  You should have it or something similar in your toolbox but be aware, it does not give you the same level of flexibility and access to your evidence as a courtroom presentation program such as TrialDirector.  For example, with PowerPoint, each slide must be prepared in advance with fixed text or images whereas with a courtroom presentation software, you can show any file that has been loaded into the program on the fly.

We believe that these various presentation tools should be used to enhance, not replace, an attorney’s advocacy on behalf of their clients.  But as a sign of the times, courtroom presentation software is now so commonplace that there are even presentation apps for use with iPads and other tablet PCs.

Criminal Justice Act (CJA) panel attorneys can take advantage of a special offer provided by inData and purchase a copy of TrialDirector at a discounted price.  Additionally, the Office of Defender Services offers technology related training events that specifically focus on PowerPoint and TrialDirector.  These workshops have no fees for attendance and are open to all CJA panel attorneys and Federal Defender staff.  For those of you who are interested, the next workshop will be held in Providence, Rhode Island, July 21-23 and there are still a few spaces available.  Details about the workshop and registration information can be found on fd.org.