Not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything,
we prefer seeing to everything else. The reason is that sight, most of all the senses,
makes us know and brings to light many differences between things.
Technological progress is like an axe in the hands of a pathological criminal.
Change is the process by which the future invades our life.
Without explanation, visibility can be a trap.
INTRODUCTION to COURTROOM TECHNOLOGY
This is the era of technologically advanced trial strategy and the electronic high tech courtrooom (video) (1 - Bexar County Courtroom video), (2 - Sample Federal Courtroom), (3 - Report), (4 - 16 minutes of streaming VIDEO of the courtroom technology in a new Texas federal courthouse; standard stuff but nicely explained), (5 - How a part-time preacher, full-time lawyer used technology to whip a giant drug company in the Texas Vioxx trial), (6- article), (7 - Courtroom Technology in Harris County, TX), (8 - various configurations of electronic courtrooms). It's also the age of the geek, not the geezer. Skilled defenders must possess technical skills. If (like me at 70) you are a geezer, you have to adapt to the situation. Technology has tremendous potential as a tool for favorably impacting trial advocacy, e.g., (1), (2), (3), (4). Every advocate has the duty to learn how to integrate new strategies, technologies and delivery systems (1 - See Computer Generated Exhibits in Seeing Is Believing - part of a 376-page 2005 presentation on indigent defense), (2 - how to) into the trial process as a way of enhancing the trial presentation. Electronic gadgetry, e.g., the computer and a plethora of other delivery devices like scanners, CD burners, LCD projectors, video platforms (document camera), monitors, speakers, DVD players, printers, etc., furnishes a number of weapons for use in your arsenal of advocacy tools. At the case management level (See the list of case management software products below.) your computer can function as the pretrial notebook that helps you plan your case. You can use it to keep track of deadlines, pleadings, documents, discovery, work products, witness statements, pretrial motions, voir dire questions, openings, arguments, etc. Later you can use it as a trial notebook. [Note: On the issue of personal computers, I have had disastrous service from two expensive Dell laptops; fool me once, shame on Dell; fool me twice, I take the blame for the second purchase. Never again.] Modern day prosecutors - most of 'em are much more computer literate than defenders - are definitely gearing up for the electronic courtroom. Except for in-house training programs of public defenders, much of the CLE offered to defenders focuses on chest-thumping pigs-I-have-stuck stories, hand-wringing over constitutional violations, and discussion of constitutional due process criminal procedure. Only in 2009, at a 5-day program at Cal Western, did federal public defenders eschew their traditional one-speech-after-another conferences and first try their hand at a learning by doing trial advocacy program. Meanwhile, state prosecutors go about their business of getting ready for the courtroom trial, creating nationwide training programs, conducted by the National College of District Attorneys (the educational arm of the National District Attorneys Association), in cities throughout the U.S.A., and building a huge National Advocacy Center (NAC) training facility, complete with full-service hotel, in Columbia, SC, where prosecutors from throughout the nation flock for state-of-the-art trial practice training. The National District Attorneys Association and its research arm, the American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI), offer state prosecutors a buffet of free NAC 4-day training programs concentrating on development of advocacy skills in a learning-by-doing atmosphere. The US Department of Justice (Office of Legal Education) has similar training facilities for federal prosecutors at the NAC in Columbia, including a dedicated intensive technology training center. [Note: Every state court prosecutor in the country should subscribe to the Pros-CLE Yahoo E-Discussion Group.]
Modern day jurors - most of 'em are either geeks or baby boomers - receive and process information through increasingly sophisticated visual media. Every trial lawyer, particularly defenders, must learn how to use technology to engage the jury. The persuasive force and eloquent power derived from using visual and aural displays of information in electronic form, e.g., computer-generated exhibits, at trial simply cannot be ignored. In their most complex form, these types of exhibits, i.e., computer generated exhibits, re-create events in animated or simulated form. In electronic courtrooms around the country, we see graphic depictions of so many things, e.g., scientific principles and concepts such as DNA, real time occurrences such as complex homicides, injuries to internal aspects of the body, the trail of money in money laundering cases, chronologies of events in timelines, explanations of mathematical calculations, complicated factual scenarios, etc.
To sum it up, in these days, every defense advocate must learn to maximize the persuasiveness of the defense presentation by employing technology. For courtroom presentations, this means that you'll have to spend some money to purchase a powerful laptop computer with as much RAM (random access memory) and hard driver space as possible, a wireless radio wave driven mouse, a projector, and a screen (assuming the courtroom does not have the last two). You'll also have to get a lasso over the ins-and-outs of how technology can be utilized at each stage of the pretrial and trial process in a criminal case. This includes office and case management, discovery, motion practice, hearings, openings, witness questioning, and argument. If defense CLE programs fail to provide the training that will allow you to unlock the predicament of how to present evidence and argue with electronic assistance, you must train yourself, e.g., enroll in a basic PowerPoint course, read how-to-do-it books, network with colleagues who have learned how to use their laptops in court, consult an expert, etc.
A FREE COURTROOM TECHNOLOGY RESOURCE THAT YOU SHOULD DOWNLOAD:
There is a very useful free 369-page resource available to you on the subject of courtroom technology. The Federal Judicial Center produced a book in 2001 entitled " Effective Use of Courtroom Technology: A Judge's Guide to Pretrial and Trial." You'll use more than half a ream of paper if you print this one, but the game is definitely worth the candle, provided, of course, that you make time to read the material. Press here for the pdf download of this excellent reference. Of course, you'll need the free downloadable Adobe Acrobat reader program to download pdf files.
OTHER USEFUL RESOURCES FOR INFOMATION ABOUT APPLICATIONS OF TECHNOLOGY FOR PRACTICING LAWYERS
- Check out these sites and Blawgs for technology advice in connection with management of your law office, e.g., document assembly, building a law firm web site, etc. (1 - ABA), (2 - DennisKennedy), (3 - Future Lawyer), ( 4 - for solos), (5 - Techno Lawyer), (6 - Law Practice Tips), (7 - InterAlia), (8 - Lawgarithms), (9 - for Macintosh afficianados), (10 - Tech Trends), (11 - Ernie the Attorney), (12 - Lawyerist), (13 - ride the lightning), (14 - lawsites), (15 - the latest legal technolog, updates, and apps for users of iPhones and iPads). (. You'll also find web-based articles and blog postings on high-tech trial presentations (1 - Do's and Don'ts), (2 - Illinois Trial Practice Blawg), (3 - SC Trial Law Blawg), (4 - Trial Tech View) by Googling. See also Effective Use of Courtroom Technology: A Judge's Guide to Pretrial and Trial , discussed above, and CCJA's Law Office Management for the Criminal Defense Lawyer. - Try the ABA Law Practice Web Site. It's got some useful articles and tips on technology. - Case Law Regarding the Use of Technology in Opening and Closing: Sucharew v. State, 66 P.3d 59 (Ariz. App 2003) authorized the use of a 30-slide PowerPoint presentation during the prosecution's opening statement and stated that the trial court has full discretion in conducting the trial and that this discretion will not be overturned absent a clear showing of abuse of discretion; Milson v. State, 832 So.2d 897 (Fla. App. 2002) authorized the prosecution's use of a PowerPoint presentation in jury argument, holding that the determination as to whether to allow the display of a demonstrative exhibit is a matter within the trial court's discretion. The Michael Skakel murder case in Connecticut, State v.Skakel, 888 A.2d 985 (Conn. 2006), involved courtroom technology, particularly in the prosecution's highly persuasive jury argument. Here's a short video clip from that argument. Skakel's conviction was affirmed. Regarding the use of computer animation, see Serge v. Commonwealth, 896 A.2d 1170 (PA 2006). [Note: Of course, technology can be used to present exhibits during the direct/cross-examination phases of trial, e.g., (1 - computer-generated video demonstrating the mechanics of "shaken baby syndrome."). See Exhibits.]
- Written Material That Will Help You Properly Display Information in Court:
- Tufte as a Must Read: Every lawyer doing multimedia visual courtroom presentations must read the work of Edward R. Tufte. His books focus on how to use visual evidence for the maximum persuasive impact. Tufte's work will give you insights that you don't get from the mechanical paint-by- the-numbers books listed later on this web page. He educates you on the psychology of presenting information. If you are on a budget, order the first two $7 paperbacks for your toolbox; the hardcovers are a bit dearer. (Note: I got these prices from Amazon in January 2011.):
- Tufte, The Cognitive Style of Powerpoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within (2nd edition 2006) paperback +-$7 Tufte contends that the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning. He discusses the problem with PowerPoint and suggests how can we improve our presentations?
- Here is a list of several articles about technology in the courtroom; these get dated rather soon, but each contains useful comments:
- Galves, Where the Not-So-Wild things Are: Computers in the Courtroom, the Federal Rules of Evidence, and the Need for Institutional Reform and More Judicial Acceptance, 13 Harv. J. L. & Tech 161 (2000). - Smalley, Establishing Foundation to Admit Computer-Generated Evidence as Demonstrative or Substantive Evidence, 57 Am. Jur. Proof of Facts 3rd 455 (2000). - Strong, Technology Tools in the Courtroom: How to Use Them, and How to Oppose Them, 11 Practical Litigator 15 (2000). - Watt, Technology Creates Winning Visual Evidence, Trial, Sept. 2000, page 68. - Joseph, Simplified Approach to Computer-Generated Evidence and Animations, 43 New York.Law School Law Review 875 (1999-2000). - Lederer, Some Thoughts on the Evidentiary Aspects of Technologically Presented or Produced Evidence, 28 Southwestern University Law Review 389 (1999). - Lederer, The Road to the Virtual Courtroom? A Consideration of Today's and Tomorrow's High Technology Courtrooms, 50 South Carolina Law Review 799 (1999). - Bennett, Seeing Is Believing, or Is It? An Empirical Study of Computer Simulations as Evidence, 34 Wake Forest L. Rev. 257 (1999).
- Butera, Seeing is Believing: A Practitioner's Guide to the Admissibility of Demonstrative Computer Evidence, 46 Cleveland State Law Review 511 (1998).
- If you go to the Presentations web site, you'll usually encounter some helpful articles about how to persuasively present information to an audience. You'll also learn about the latest presentation hardware and software ("chips and salsa" in tech lingo). - The NITA (National Institute for Trial Advocacy) web site has a number of courtroom technology publications for sale, e.g., Basic Powerpoint Exhibits, Digital Projector and Laptop Computer, Argument Slides, etc., by Siemer & Rothschild around 2003. If you are looking for contemporary material, be advised that these are dated. - A 2006 publication from Aspen Publishers is Rogers, Litigation Technology: Becoming a High Tech Trial Lawyer. $43. This one provides some helpful starter guidance regarding how to use PowerPoint and Sanction. The chap who wrote it is a former Chicago dyed-in-the-wool prosecutor who teaches litigation technology as adjunct professor. I have heard him speak. He knows his stuff. He started a litigation consulting company. I don't know if it is still operative, but if it is, you should check it out. - Here's a web article on computer animation. This short article by a personal injury plaintiff's lawyer on the practical use of courtroom technology is worth a read. Try this for an 8-page discussion of Effective Use of Courtroom Visuals. An entire issue of the ABA's Criminal Justice Magazine discussing technology in the courtroom is temporarily open (The ABA opens a few of the issues from time to time as teasers. If you are interested in courtroom technology, you'll find this one helpful.) for free viewing by non-members. Google "courtroom technology" and you'll come up with articles like these (1 -24 pp), (2). Here are some technology links. - A search of Youtube may provide you with some useful video examples of public speaking coupled with multimedia displays. - Casesoft has a series of short 4-7 page articles on subjects such as timelines, the chronology of your case, etc.
- Legal Presentation Software: Here are web sites selling legal presentation software systems:
- Sanction II (This trial presentation software is very popular among prosecutors. The web site indicates that the single user price is around $595; although, during the XMAS holidays of 2007, they ran a sale at which the price was around $395. Anecdotal laudatory comments from prosecutors would cause me to be favorably inclined about the usability of Sanction II software in the prosecution of criminal cases. Verdict Systems has recently introduced Verdical, about which I know little.)
- Summation (The web site suggests that the price for a single user runs from about $995 to $2495.)
- Trial Director (This software is also quite popular among criminal defense litigators; the web site suggests that the price for a single user is about $595.)
- Trial Pro (The web site suggests that the price for a single user is about $595.)
[Note: I do not personally endorse any of these six legal presentation software systems. Before buying, check with other consumers who do have experience with the systems. If you are on a prosecutor or defender listserv, seek comments from your colleagues.]
-Check out these NIJ Publications from the DOJ involving Digital Evidence and Electronic Crime Scene Investigation for Prosecutors and Law Enforcement; once you get past all the back-patting that always infests these government reports, there is some guidance for prosecutors and useful information for defenders: