Beginning this Summer Seattle University Law School will offered an online course entitled “Visual Litigation and Today’s Technology.” Cross-examination visuals were featured because visuals can be extremely powerful weapons for cross-examination. They can be used to gain concessions supporting your case theory and undermining the other side’s case theory.
Visuals can also be very effective for impeaching a witness. For examples, impeachment visuals can include: a prior inconsistent statement either in a document or in a visual, such as a video deposition; a prior conviction—judgment and sentence document; a visual that establishes that the witness did not have personal knowledge about that which the witness testified; a visual that proves that the witness’s testimony is improbable; a visual that reveals the witness’s bias or interest; and a statement in a learned treatise that conflicts with the witness’s testimony.
“Visual Litigation and Today’s Technology” is a 2-credit course that I taught. It was so popular that another section was added. In this Visual Litigation and Today’s Technology online course, students interested in litigation learn how to integrate technology into their trial visual presentations. Just as visuals and technology have become a centerpiece in modern life, they also are the centerpiece in trial. Judges and jurors expect lawyers to use visuals with today’s technology.
The course is taught in the context of mock civil and criminal cases, giving students simulated real-world experiences working with visuals and cutting-edge technology. This experiential course allows students in role-play assignments to plan the cross-examination of witnesses with visuals.
This course is comprehensive in its exploration of visual communication strategies and technology, including, among other topics: the ethical and legal boundaries to what visuals may be displayed in trial; evidentiary foundations for visuals (animations, demonstrations, laser scanner images and so on); visual advocacy in both a pretrial venue and a courtroom, from opening statement through closing argument; the creation of visuals; litigation software, such as Sanction, TrialPad, and SmartDraw; and meeting the trial judge’s expectations of a trial lawyer’s competency when employing technology.
The text for the course is my new book Visual Litigation: Visual Communication Strategies and Today’s Technology, which is being published by Full Court Press, the publishing arm of Fastcase. The text offers examples of how visuals were used on cross-examination in notable cases, such as Abraham Lincoln’s cross-examination with a Farmer’s Almanac or the prosecutor’s cross-examination of Richard Hauptmann in the Lindbergh kidnapping/murder case with a ransom note and Hauptmann’s diary.
My co-authors are Thomas O’Toole and Patrick Muscat. Tom is the President of Sound Jury Consulting, and he has practiced across the nation for over fifteen years in nearly every field of litigation. Pat is an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and Deputy Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit in Detroit where he has tried over 100 homicide jury trials using courtroom technology.