As a trial technician, my job is to make the trial process as seamless as possible. Sure, I’m in charge of finding and displaying documents and video, but good trial technicians do much more. We are the unsung heroes of the courtroom, the ones who blend into the background while guiding factfinders toward the actual content.
Having spent over 20 years in the courtroom and supporting litigations, and having worked on more than 100 trials, I've somewhat have become the paid 13th juror. I’ve had the opportunities throughout my career to validate feelings on juries and their ultimate verdicts. And, having observed more trials than probably anyone in the courtroom except the judge, I have strong foundation as to how a presentation can be made more persuasive. Below are ten techniques that I have consistently seen prove successful in the courtroom.
HOLD FAST TO YOUR THEME A court case needs to have a theme. It’s like any good book or movie; it needs a core message. Your theme is the most basic position being asserted, and it will serve as the overarching lens by which jurors will view your evidence at trial. Establish your theme in the opening statement, validate it through witness testimony, and reiterate it during closing.
TALK TO THE JURY It is the jurors, the ultimate decision-makers in the case, that you need to address. Don't argue your case to the media sitting in the gallery, with counsel with continued objections and in-court fighting, or worse arguing your case with witnesses, that only serves to sour juror interest and opinions on your case. Remind witnesses to address jurors by beginning some questions with, “Please explain to the jury…”
KEEP VIDEO DEPOSITION TESTIMONY SHORT AND SWEET Jurors will tune out if you display more than fifteen minutes of video footage. Play only the segment that conveys the intended message. Even if impeachment video exists, there may be times when you opt to present the transcript instead. Adding your own tone and inflection to the words may help the jury better comprehend your reasons for impeaching the witness.
REMEMBER: AN IMAGE IS MIGHTIER THAN THE WORD Visual images are more likely to remain in the viewer’s long-term memory. 65% of people are visual learners and this helps with better retention of your case facts. Trial graphics can have a potent impact on jurors. Images often convey the story with more clarity and utility than words ever could.
IMPACTFUL BODY LANGUAGE Body language speaks volumes. Be sure to show confidence and command in your delivery. Avoid shuffling papers, looking down, or fidgeting. Also, don't convey a dejected demeanor when the Judge makes a ruling against you. Juries pay attention to this.
GO EASY ON THE JARGON Jurors don't want to be lost in a sea of legal jargon. Speak in a language that everyone can understand. Don't be afraid to use analogies or simple explanations.
PRESENT THE EVIDENCE IN A LOGICAL ORDER Start with the easiest evidence to understand and build up to the more complex evidence. Jurors are more likely to remember the evidence presented early on.
KEEP THE JURY ENGAGED Jurors can quickly become bored or overwhelmed, so keep them engaged. Use humor, anecdotes, or even props to help drive your point home.
ANTICIPATE OBJECTIONS Be prepared to counter the opposing counsel's objections. Anticipate their objections and prepare a counterargument. Don't let them throw you off course.
PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE Finally, practice makes perfect. Practice your delivery, your body language, and your tone. Be prepared for any contingency, and have a plan B in case something goes awry.
These tips may seem like common sense, but in the heat of the moment, it can be easy to forget. Remember, you want to make the trial process as seamless as possible, and the more prepared you are, the better the outcome. So, embrace the trial technician, and let us help you win your case.