24 Trial Technology

Jury selection has been subjected to all sorts of alchemical tests over the years. Some litigation involves practice juries and jury selection experts. Digital tools have been relatively slow to develop and have had mixed reviews. Just as with a client interview, it is important to create rapport during voir dire and not have technology get in the way. There are a number of apps available, mostly for Apple’s iPad so if you use Android, you may be out of luck. They offer ways to organize the jurors, apply notes to their profiles, and rate them.

One frequent discussion of technology related to jury selection is the investigation outside the courtroom. In particular, how to find out publicly accessible information about potential jurors available from social media profiles, blogs and online comments, and other sources. This can be accomplished using common tools, like Google or Bing web search engines, or Twitter or Facebook’s own search functions. More importantly than the technology you might use is what your professional obligations and limitations are. You can give yourself a lot of trouble by doing something as simple as having a party or witness’ Facebook password and accessing their profile. Probably the best starting point for this is not the technology, but a continuing education seminar for lawyers on this sort of litigation research. It is a frequent topic at state and other bar associations.

Courtroom Technology

What you use in court may not be entirely within your control. The basic assumption you should make is that any trial technology you plan to use in the courtroom will be provided by you. The next step from that assumption is that, if you want to use technology in a courtroom, you confirm that the court will allow you to use it.

Court-provided technology availability is all over the board, although the Federal Judicial Center has a guide from 2001 that is a nice summary of what’s out there and how to use it. Some things have changed but, for the most part, you’ll find this sort of equipment if you find anything at all.

The better funded the court system, the more likely you are to find digital projectors, screens, whiteboards and large TVs for replay of media. There are some show courtrooms where each juror may have a screen in front of them and more of the technology is embedded. Even within a court system, however, you shouldn’t expect that one county or city will have the same facilities or resources as another. And you should be aware whether an individual judge allows technology use in her courtroom, because this can vary even with a court.

Typical types of equipment used by lawyers, according to the ABA survey:

  • Document camera (like a transparency overhead projector, except that it works with both documents and physical items);
  • Projection screen or electronic whiteboard;
  • Digital projector or TV;
  • Slide projector;
  • Telestrator or equivalent screen that enables writing or drawing to be projected on top of the underlying image;
  • Bar code scanning (enables quick, controlled projection of evidence).

If you are a regular litigator and use technology frequently in the courtroom, it may be worth purchasing your own projector and other equipment. If you are not and rely on either the court’s technology or third-party providers, you will want to understand how to connect to their devices. It is worth investing in alternative connectors and adaptors so that you can connect your HDMI video output to the VGA video input of an older device. If you rely on a third-party trial presentation consultant, they should take care of all of this for you.

Presentation

If you decide to use technology for some or all of your trial, you have a range of options. Not surprisingly, perhaps, many litigators appear to use Microsoft’s PowerPoint or a similar presentation software to create simple slides to present their opening statement or closing argument.

A slide presentation is perhaps the simplest technology to use at trial. You can cue up video using a laptop, tablet, or DVD player. Using trial presentation software, like inData’s Trial Director or Access Data’s Summation, you can organize and control the presentation from within one application. For example, if you apply bar codes to particular exhibits, you can scan the bar code to have that item display, rather than hunting around or toggling from one item to another using your keyboard or mouse.

This is another technology area where the technology may be less important than the use. For example, you should understand not only how to maneuver around a presentation (right click, left click) so that it doesn’t distract while you present, but also how to make slides that are not distracting themselves. Like many aspects of litigation, there are detailed studies and discussions about colors that appeal to jurors.

Similarly, you should understand the tool you are using. This can be critical when switching between exhibits – how do you blank the screen so as to not show something, like your kid’s photo on your computer’s wallpaper or a document that has not been entered as an exhibit or your trial notes – unintentionally. Just as you would practice your trial presentation itself, you will need to spend time becoming comfortable with the underlying technology. If it’s a distraction, either don’t use it or bring in someone who can manage it for you.

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