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Audio-Visual Nightmares at Trial: How to Avoid Losing Your Audience0

24 June 2014

Imagine a scenario in which you are a trial attorney and finally in front of a jury in a case that has consumed your life for a long time.  Your case is building to an important crescendo. You have planned this moment for years, spent countless hours of time and money preparing for it and just when you tell your AV technician to “hit play,” nothing happens. The screen goes black and the system completely shuts down. Not only has your system crashed, the person helping you is at a loss… what do you do? The moment is lost forever and you’ve lost the momentum, the jury’s attention and your credibility not only with the jury but with your client as well. Instead of hitting a home run, you and your team now look incompetent, unprepared, and the Judge and Jury begin to lose patience with you for wasting precious time - all of which could cost you your case.

Case in point:  In February 2014, I was hired as the technical specialist by a trial team representing the plaintiff on an insurance case in Houston, TX.  In an attempt to save money, instead of using an experienced trial technology specialist, the insurance company’s trial team decided their paralegal could display their evidence to the jury. During the third day of trial, just as opposing counsel was going to play the rebuttal video of one of their most important witnesses, the defense experienced a technical breakdown with their computer. During the next few extremely uncomfortable moments of scrambling, trying to resolve the problem at hand, and the paralegal attempting to “troubleshoot,” the problem, the Judge finally lost patience and asked me (the opposing technology specialist), if I could display their documents and video for them in order to keep from wasting the court’s and the jury’s time. As an experienced trial technician, I knew exactly what to do and was able to resolve the problem. The whole breakdown in technology only happened because the defense was using a paralegal instead of an experienced technician and it came across negatively to the Judge and Jury. It’s hard to imagine how defense counsel’s client felt, how defense counsel felt, the impact this breakdown had on the defense team’s morale and what they would have done if I hadn’t been there and been willing to assist.

Lesson learned… it takes more than “learning a program” to be able present evidence to a jury smoothly and seamlessly.  You need to have trial presentation experience, you need to be technically savvy and you must be able to anticipate potential problems, have redundancies in place and the knowledge to resolve technical issues quickly and imperceptibly while under pressure. After spending a lot of money preparing your case, it is a dangerous gamble to take short cuts when preparing the technological side of your case. Don’t let this happen to you.


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