Trial Graphics: A Case Study of A First-Degree Murder

As long as the trial graphics helps understand facts and opinions during a case, its admission is within the broad discretion of the district court.
Trial Graphics
Photo by Sammy Williams on Unsplash

Murder is a type of homicide that involves the killing of one human being by another intentionally and unlawfully. There are common degrees of murder as recognized from state to state, and trial graphics can be a helpful tool in ascertaining justice in such cases.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice article published in the LEGAL POINT JOURNAL, it was explained that “most jurisdictions have statutorily divided murder into two or more degrees: murder in the first degree, which usually requires premeditation and deliberation; and murder in the second degree, which is unplanned or impulsive, but an intentional homicide done with malice aforethought.”

First-degree murder

First-degree murder is premeditated, willful, deliberate, and it is considered the highest degree of murder or the most serious type of murder that one can commit. They also draw the most severe sentences of any crime.

Trial Graphics
Photograph by Lacie Slezak (

According to state legislation, willfulness, deliberation, and premeditation are the three main ingredients of first-degree murder. Also, one of the factors is malice aforethought, which is required by federal law and several states. However, most states regard certain kinds of killings as first-degree killings without the need to prove intent, deliberation, and premeditation.

There have been many first-degree murder cases charged to court in and outside the U.S, including but not limited to Green v. United StatesPeople v. ChiuPeople v. Dillon. During some of these cases, the parties involved used computer-generated animation. One such case where computer-generated animation was used in a first-degree murder case is the case of State v. Thompson.

State v. Thompson.

A 17-year-old Thompson was charged with two counts of first-degree premeditated murder and two counts of first-degree murder while committing aggravated robbery for the deaths of Katricia Daniels and her 10-year-old son, Robert Shepard.

During the trial,  computer-generated animation in the form of images otherwise called still-shot demonstrative was used.

The images depicted bloody footprints and shoeprints at the crime scene, making Thompson liable for the said crime.

Thompson, in his defence, questioned the admissibility of the animation by the trial court, claiming they were prejudicial as he explained that “the images embellished the actual prints by depicting “well-defined foot or shoeprints” where the crime scene photos show “a muddled mess with a few clearly distinguishable footprints.”

However, the trial court concluded that the animation helped understand the events around the case and was admitted. 

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