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Using Multimedia in Legal Proceedings

Presentation Software

After you have created visuals for a case or imaged in documents, then presentation software is needed to display these digital exhibits to the trier of fact. The presentation software you choose should enable you to easily retrieve the digitized evidence and then use specialized tools to enhance and draw attention to specific portions of the exhibit for the legal audience’s benefit. The capability to focus the trier of fact upon the specific portions of a document or other digitized evidence for everyone to view simultaneously cannot be overstated. A word of caution, whatever presentation software you use, ensure that it will display the graphics or image in the file format that you captured or created the documents in.

There are some presentation software programs that were developed specifically for the needs of the legal profession and are available for purchase. For example, Trial Director™ Sanction, Visionary, Anix and Summation Vupoint™ are trial presentation software. Trial presentation software is generally able to display demonstrative exhibits, animations, graphics, sound, video and any other type of information that has been digitized. This software enables you to retrieve the digitized evidence by bar codes or touchscreen and has many other features that are explained below.

General graphics or image software packages have some limited built in presentation features that may fulfill your presentation needs. For example, PowerPoint™ enables you to create a “screenshow” to show your bullet slides, charts, or graphs created within the program.

There are a number of graphic, image, and animation service bureaus that will prepare your images and graphics for presentation in the courtroom. Along with this service, they will provide customized presentation software and equipment for the duration of the case. They are generally experts in the preparation of graphics and animations and will provide in-court assistance for the presentation of your case. Some service bureaus to consider are inData (www.indatacorp.com), Verdict Systems (www.verdictsystems.com), Lex Solutio (www.lexsolutio.com), TrialPro (www.trialpro.com), Doar Communications (www.doar.com), and Z-axis (www.zaxis.com).

Presentation Software Features

Text Box:It is important that when you present a case to a legal audience, the digitized evidence can be highlighted, annotated, or displayed in a way to persuade the factfinders of your client’s position. For this reason, it is important to focus upon the available features of presentation software so that your key points are emphasized for the trier of fact. Some of the most utilized features and techniques are discussed below.

Retrieving graphics and images - The most common method of accessing document exhibits in your case is to use bar code technology. This is the same technology that is used in grocery stores to obtain prices off the food you buy. In the courtroom, you would move a bar code scanner over a bar code. Once read, the document would appear on the screen. The bar codes are preconfigured to access a particular document exhibit when the bar code is read.

Barcode software converts keystrokes on your computer into a readable barcode. Once a scanner is passed over the barcode, it activates the keystrokes on your computer to perform the tasks. They are generally used for presentation programs and will call up any document, graph, video, and animation by swiping the bar code with a bar code reader. It also allows you to control documents and other materials on your computer screen such as focusing on certain parts or zones of a document, paging up or down, as well as many other functions. There are many different kind of bar code readers, but they are primarily a pen or a gun. With a gun reader you point the gun over the bar code and press a button for the reader to read the bar code. Most find the gun easier to use. Prior to purchasing a bar code reader, you must make sure it will work with your laptop and also with your software. The reader generally connects through your serial or keyboard port. Software and configuration utilities must generally be installed with bar code readers.

The bar codes are easily created and can be printed on peel away stickers. The bar code sticker can be placed on your direct examination outline for a witness and “read’ at the appropriate time, or placed in any other part of your trial notebook. Using this type of approach demonstrates to the trier of fact that you are in control of your case, saves time, and drives home your points.

Another retrieval method would be to go into an imaging program and locate in the pokies computer directory the particular computer file that contains the demonstrative exhibit. This is somewhat slower and assumes that your exhibit files are properly organized to ensure they are efficiently located. During trial, this can be a distraction, depending upon who is accessing the exhibits for presentation purposes.

One other presentation system, referred to as a touchscreen, enables you to touch the computer screen that contains certain menuing choices to locate an exhibit. You would touch the computer screen on a particular menu choice and the image would appear. This has to be preconfigured and has shown to be an effective and reliable way of accessing your exhibits.

Drawing on Exhibit - One of the most powerful ways of focusing a jury on the important parts of your evidence is to draw on the critical parts of the document or exhibit. This can be done by using a pen based drawing instrument, such as a light pen that connects into your computer, a mouse or if you are using a touchscreen, your finger. It generally permits you to draw on the exhibit in a variety of colors and block portions of the exhibit in different colors. Also, arrows, circles and other highlighting features are generally available.

Exhibit Manipulation - Trial presentation systems permit you to manipulate the size of an exhibit and place two or more exhibits together on the same screen.

Enlargement - Once your exhibit is on the screen, you can use a mouse, pen based system or touch screen to mark off the portion that you want enlarged and do it instantly. Once enlarged, you can discuss with the jury the impact of the particular document section on your case. Also, you can then draw on the enlarged portions with the tools noted above.

Side-by-Side or Top and Bottom Display - One effective technique is to bring up two different exhibits side-by-side or one on the top and one on the bottom. This would be done to show the inconsistencies in the two documents or how they both are supportive of the same point. You can have up to four images on the same screen at the same time.

Photographs - Photographs can be shown electronically and enlarged and colored similar to a document exhibit.

Video - video depositions can be stored on CD-ROM or DVD and accessed by the trial presentation systems described above. They generally can be stopped at any point for discussion by experts or in your opening or closing statements. The advantage over using a VCR to show the video is that when it is on CD-ROM or DVD any portion of the video can be accessed in a few seconds. With a VCR, you have to wait for the VCR to reel to the place where the significant video is located. This can take several minutes, depending on where the video is located. Also, on CD-ROM or DVD, the EXACT portion of the video can be configured to present to the jury. This is important when the court has ruled that only sentence 5 on page 34 through sentence 12 on page 36 of the deposition can be shown.

The screens can also be split to show video, synchronized text, exhibits, and sound at the same time. Annotations can be made to the video and other digitized content and then saved to a computer file for appeal purposes.

Other Presentation Software Features - Other features include note searching, video review and editing capability, scanning capability, organization of documents by witness folders and cases, and scripting or layering capability with markup save features.

Some questions to ask when considering trial presentation software:

  • Video - Does the software permit editing and displaying video depositions or other video segments?
  • Database Integration – Does the software have its own database capability and/or does it integrate with popular database programs such as Summation and Concordance?

The main modules of a presentation software program are the presentation, database (built in and/or integration with popular database software products) and a video deposition module. Below is a minimum comparison of some trial presentation software packages. It is suggested that before buying, one contact the company to discuss your needs and any particular questions you have regarding the software.

Multimedia presentations should be the norm in our cases for many reasons. The rest of the world expects presentations that provide multi-sensory stimulus to learn and decide the merits of products and services, why not disputes?




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