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How to Make Courtroom Presentations InteractiveWhen court is in session there is not a lot of opportunity to move around. The judge is seated on the bench, the witness at the stand, counsel at their tables, and the jurors in the box. We are all pretty much planted in our chairs until the next break comes along.
2013-03-11 12:00:00 AM
When court is in session there is not a lot of opportunity to move around. The judge is seated on the bench, the witness at the stand, counsel at their tables, and the jurors in the box. We are all pretty much planted in our chairs until the next break comes along. And as the day drags on you can see it weighing on the jurors, as more and more of them slouch or stare at the ground or cast repeated glances at the courtroom clock.
Effective trial attorneys know this problem and combat it by making their presentations interactive. Movement around the courtroom by the attorneys or witnesses as they interact with exhibits and demonstratives distracts the jurors from their own predicament and helps keep them focused on the case. An interactive presentation also encourages the jurors and judge to follow along and remain in the moment, rather than zone out. Interactivity can be achieved by something as simple as having an expert write numbers on butcher paper hung from an easel, to something as complicated as implementing the latest in high-tech gear.
Let's start with the simple: boards. Sometimes attorneys want their boards, often timelines but occasionally some other demonstrative, to build interactively. One way to do this is by making a magnetic board. Your board vendor can mount a sheet of metal on the board underneath the background graphic and use a magnetic rubber sheet as the backing on each entry. It works really well, but the board is extremely heavy. An easier, and less weighty, solution is to use velcro tabs on foam core boards but have the attorney practice placing the entries on the board because it can be a challenge to get the velcro to line up correctly.
Other tried and true interactive courtroom technologies include document cameras (also known as "ELMOs), barcode readers, and wireless presenters with laser pointers. All three are extremely easy to use with little to no instruction, and jurors are typically comfortable with them so you do not have to worry about the "gee whiz" factor of making your client appear to be too wealthy or cutting edge. On the other hand, you do need to worry about the attorney becoming self-conscious about the close-up on their hand as they put items on the document camera, or whether they are blithely shining the laser into someone's eyes, and the barcode readers do require you to make barcodes.
Lately the iPad, used in conjunction with AppleTV, has been making inroads into the courtroom. The iPad and AppleTV connect wirelessly through their included Airplay software when they are on the same Wi-Fi network. In court this typically means using a mobile hotspot device of some sort to create the network. The AppleTV connects via cable to the VGA switch or distribution amp that runs to the projector and monitors.
Once the iPad and AppleTV connect there are a number of trial presentation apps available. Although there is a bit of a learning curve for the attorney to become comfortable with the chosen app, in this day and age jurors are readily accepting of an attorney with an iPad. Perhaps best of all, the attorney has the freedom to wander around the courtroom and send images or video wirelessly from the iPad to the presentation system without you having to worry about cables.
If you watched the election coverage in November you may have seen CNN's "Magic Wall." The reporters and analysts could touch the large LCD monitors to zoom in on districts and manipulate numbers and projected results in an engaging and occasionally informative way. The Magic Wall was created by Perceptive Pixel, which is part of Microsoft. Similar, though perhaps slightly less sophisticated, technologies have existed for years, including the Smart Board, which can be combined with a projector, laptop, and color coded pens that use "digital ink" to create powerful presentations.
So what's coming next? How about using electric frosted glass as a projection screen in combination with a Kinect. When the projector is not in use simply turn off the electric current to the glass and it becomes transparent. When needed, flip the switch and the glass instantly turns opaque. Combine it with an Xbox Kinect, as UBI-Interactive and others are working on, and you have a fully interactive board for the attorney to work with. Additionally, with the Kinect, a user can use the 3rd dimension of distance to and from the screen to manipulate items instead of being limited to the flat two dimensional surface of a touchscreen.
Many of these technologies have a substantial cost and require a great deal of prep work in the background before they can be implemented in court. But if they allow the attorney to "effortlessly" work with the exhibits and video while engaging the jurors and keeping their attention, they are well worth the investment.
John Cleaves is supervisor of trial technology consulting at Latham & Watkins, based in its Los Angeles office. Cleaves is a member of Law Technology News editorial advisory board. Email him at John.Cleaves@lw.com.