Explaining Demonstrative Evidence To A Layman

“There is nothing new in the principles of demonstrative evidence. The successful fisherman who mounts his trophy for display uses effective demonstrative evidence.” - Spangenberg (1960)

Brown et al(n.d.) in their publication “Evidence (Real & Demonstrative)” explained that demonstrative evidence is one of the four types of evidence in a legal action alongside testimonial, real and documentary evidence. Testimonial evidence involves a witness being called at trial to speak to a jury about his/her knowledge of the facts in a case. Documentary evidence is any material that may be presented in the form of documents at a trial. Real evidence refers to actual physical objects and things the jury can physically hold and/or inspect.

Demonstrative evidence generally refers to evidence that offers a physical illustration of a fact presented, rather than a verbal description. In an article published in the Illinois Association of Defense Trial Counsel Quarterly, it was explained that “demonstrative evidence is evidence that appeals to the senses of sight, sound, or touch of the jurors.” Attorneys generate demonstrative evidence as part of their presentation as they are exhibits that are used to explain or clarify evidence, as well as to recreate a tangible item, event, or experiment. 

Christian and Small (n.d.) in their article stated that “demonstrative evidence can take a variety of forms such as models, graphs, diagrams, charts, drawing, photographs, videos, scientific tests, computer reconstruction or any other object that can explain or illustrate issues in the case.” Then they further explained that only a lawyer’s imagination and, of course, the rules of evidence limit the forms of demonstrative evidence that can be used. 

Demonstrative evidence isn’t just for use in courtrooms during evidence presentations. It can be used by the counsel during the opening statement and closing argument, just as it can help a witness clarify a part of his testimony. 

Demonstrative evidence can be termed irrelevant to a case. Dumont et al(n.d.) in their article Trial Exhibits and Demonstrative Evidence explained that “the main foundational elements necessary for the use of demonstrative proof are that (1) the demonstrative exhibit relate to a piece of admissible substantive proof and fairly and accurately reflect that substantive proof, and (2) the demonstrative proof aid the trier of fact in understanding or in evaluating the related substantive evidence.” Brown et al(n.d.) also explained that “a great deal of demonstrative evidence has the capacity to generate emotional responses such as pity, revulsion, or contempt, and where this capacity outweighs the value of the evidence on the issues in litigation, exclusion is appropriate.”

In conclusion, demonstrative evidence presented during a case must be relevant, must not result in unfair prejudice, and not seek to mislead the jury

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