Craig Ball's Ten Commandments of Demonstrative Evidence

Keep It Simple

After months or years developing a case or practicing in a particular specialty, it's very easy for a lawyer to forget that concepts he or she takes for granted may be foreign, daunting, even repugnant to a juror. In making decisions, it's human nature to reject what we don't understand and turn instead to more familiar, comfortable notions.  Whether trial issues are merely unfamiliar or downright convoluted, they are best assimilated in simple, easily understood chunks of information.  

Jury persuasion can be based on trust, education or a mix of the two.  If a juror comes to believe that a litigant and/or advocate is trustworthy, i.e., credible and fair, that juror can be persuaded to follow the advocate's direction on the strength of that trust.  Alternatively, a juror can be taught the salient facts of the case and the applicable standards, and be persuaded by the application of that knowledge.  Most often, persuasion requires a measure of both. 

It is easier to gauge the credibility of simple presentations.  Advocates who use simple words and clear, simple visual images are better able to get their point across.  Moreover, simple presentations form solid foundations on which complex concepts can be erected.  A jury can meet any challenge and master virtually any complicated idea or complex set of facts, so long as those ideas and facts  are presented in manageable chunks, accompanied by a comprehensible explanation of how each of those bits of information relate to the others.

As you develop your demonstrative evidence, continually question whether an artistic embellishment or redundant phrase can be stripped away without impairing the clarity of the message.  If you find yourself reducing the font size to get more writing on a chart or exhibit, you've probably overdone it.  Use two charts, if one gets crowded.  Don't juxtapose graphics or photographs unless they bear some essential relationship to each other.  The more items you include in a demonstrative exhibit, the more you dilute the impact of any single item, and the greater chance that the jurors will fail to focus on what's important.  As Thoreau urged: "Simplify, simplify, simplify."