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The Power of Modern Visual Evidence

By Michael J. Tabas, Esq.

For centuries, attorneys have primarily used the spoken and written word to communicate.  In 1971, Judge James McCrystal of Ohio had a severely backlogged trial docket.

Facing constant requests for continuances, he exhorted the lawyers to record the testimony of unavailable witnesses on videotape, and then permitted those videos to be played to the jury at trial.  The backlog soon disappeared, and the videotape deposition was born.

Since then, technology and the rules of legal procedure for videotaping depositions (enacted in every state) have fostered an increase in the use of many kinds of video evidence in litigation.

Some attorneys treat these new methods of communication simply as high-tech, audio-visual verbatim records.  However, uniquely educational and persuasive, video is more powerful than words alone.

Video is more powerful than words alone.

Lawyers are professional communicators.  But no course in law school teaches how to navigate the complex technological and legal aspects of video usage in court.  That kind of expertise requires an understanding not only of the law, but of video production.   And this combination is best learned through practical experience.  Audio-visual images produced for use in litigation are bound by the rules of admissibility, and limited only by the creativity of the trial lawyer’s strategy.

Because legal video is different and more complex than other types of evidence, attorneys must balance many factors (extra preparation, admissibility, brevity),  and most importantly, always keep the limited attention span of the jury in mind!  In order to make their evidence brief, interesting, and powerful, today’s winning litigator thinks like a lawyer, but communicates like a broadcast journalist.

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