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Interviews

Aug. 29, 2001 - Verdicts and Settlements

The Eyes Have It

Attorneys can ensure an attentive jury by using engaging and simple graphics that increase the probability that Jurors will understand and recall the facts or concepts counsel illustrates.

Q: To win cases, must counsel use visual aids or graphics?

A: "Show, don't tell" is the cardinal rule when it comes to maintaining jurors' interest Hundreds of thousands of words are used in the trial setting, and, unfortunately, words can be lost.

By using graphics or visual aids, counsel is engaging two of the juror's senses: visual and auditory. This greatly increases the probability that jurors will understand and recall the facts or concepts counsel strives to illustrate.

Attorneys should endeavor to control the imagery and thoughts that occur in jurors' minds during a trial. Graphics provide an opportunity to create and control concrete images of the facts and scenarios for the juror.
Without visual aids, counsel counts on [he jurors to construct a mental picture of the information presented. With 12 jurors in the box, it's likely that there will be 12 different pictures.

Professional graphics allow counsel to clothe following:

  • Educate jurors
  • Reinforce spoken words or messages
  • Provide a framework for conceptualization
  • Aid in retention
  • Create impact
  • Give further legitimacy to the facts by helping jurors organize the in formation

Q: What kind of information should be presented in graphic form?

A: Lawyers typically think of graphics as blowups of evidentiary documents, but it is critical to consider 'he-visual potential of all concepts presented at trial.

Can counsel draw particular visual analogies or metaphors? Does a concept lend itself to a graphic depiction or animation?

One of the easiest and most important graphics in counsel's arsenal is a timeline. This is an effective method of conceptualizing the pertinent information jurors need to digest when the events occurred, where gaps exist, when actions coincide, plaintiff actions relative to defense actions and other important events.

Taking it one step further, and to avoid "chart junk" if the number of events to be presented is high, counsel can use a magnetic board, One at a time, the advocate can add pieces of Information onto the timeline as the story of the case unfolds,

This strategy engages jurors, holds their attention and gives them a concrete mental image through which to filter the words being used.

" Graphics should not be used to show off to a jury. They should only be used if they simplify the presentation of critical factual information," Thomas J, Nolan says.

Nolan is the managing partner of Howrey Simon Arnold & White's Southern California offices and a seasoned litigator.

" In the Litton Systems Inc. v. Honeywell he. antitrust trials, where the jury awarded over a quarter of a billion dollars to Litton, we used graphics to explain a complicated timeline of critical events. A timeline is much like a table of contents for a textbook. A simple timeline can be a juror's anchor in trying to process the informs Don," Nolan says.

Q: When should counsel use graphics?

A: Counsel should use and reuse graphics throughout the trial.
Introducing graphics during the opening statements is particularly useful because this is an opportunity to engage the jury immediately and provide them with a concrete image of the facts that they will keep throughout the trial,

The key to having graphics admitted during opening statements is for counsel to ensure that the illustrations and verbiage are not argumentative,

Q: What are some of the mistakes lawyers make when creating presentation materials?

A: The biggest mistake lawyers make is putting too much information, or chart pollution, onto the visual. This just confuses the jury.
Counsel should keep the designs simple by using: the "billboard principle," which holds that driven usually only have 10 seconds to see a billboard.
Counsel should take that same approach in court If the juror can't understand the graphic within 10 seconds, it will repel, rather than engage, the juror.
Trial consultant Marshall Hennington of Beverly Hills' Hennington & Associates encourages counsel to give graphics a test run through focus groups to avoid making mistakes.

" A focus group gives the trial learn the chance to ensure that what the jurors see in the graphics or other demonstrative evidence is relevant to the case," Hennington says. This is an opportunity to lease out any non relevant issues and understand exactly what the jurors will take away."

Hennington recently tackled a variety of graphics-related issues in his work on the high-profile trial of a rap mogul in New York City.

Q: Aesthetically, what makes a good graphic?

A: Less is more. Use icons and focus on the main points. Size matters. Big graphics are easier to read and more accessible, They command attention and give added importance to the information depicted.

To ensure that a graphic is aesthetically pleasing, Andrew Spingler, graphics designer and founder of the Focal Point in Oakland, recommends clarity

The power lies in a clear graphic and simple design," Spingler says. "Die information needs to be dearly presented, which will in turn make it pleasing to the eye. The layout of the information should be logical, especially in patent patent where there are technological concepts being presented."

Spingler also recommends using titles.

" Jurors are generally looking for clues about what they should conclude. Titles can guide jurors to that conclusion, without being argumentative," he says.

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