Trial Graphics: A Case Study of Conditions for Admissibility

Not every evidence presented in court is admissible. There are certain rules guiding the admissibility of trial graphics in court.
Trial Graphics
Photo by Will H McMahan on Unsplash

In the United States, the Federal Rules of Evidence guide the admissibility of evidence by the jury. It is applicable in the federal courts and has been adopted by some states. It helps the court to know which evidence is rightly acceptable and which one isn’t. Some of the factors that lead to the admissibility of trial graphics are laying a proper foundation for the evidence, accurate depiction of the facts of the case, the testimony of an expert in issues with a scientific background, and many more. Below are different cases and what caused them to be admissible or inadmissible.

Trial Graphics
Photograph by Rita Morais (unsplash.com)

Cases of Admissibility of Trial Graphics

Cleveland v. Bryant

In this case, the plaintiff instituted proceedings against the defendant claiming injury from an accident that occurred. In her claim, she was traveling on her lane when the truck came into her lane to hit her. The defendant claimed a different fact stating that he was traveling on the lane nearest to the median and suddenly saw the plaintiff’s car going underneath his trailer truck. 

An expert of the defendant gave testimony affirming that the car went underneath the truck as testified by the defendant. He had obtained his expert evidence by visiting the accident scene, making necessary measurements, inspecting the tractor-trailer, reviewing photographs of the damaged truck and car, and examining a car of the same make as that of the plaintiff. He gave his expert opinion based on these findings and afterward testified that he had a computer-generated animation to illustrate his opinion.

Counter to the objections of the plaintiff, the trial animation was held admissible because it reflected a fair and accurate representation of the expert witness’ opinion as to how the collision occurred.

Com v. Hardy

In this case, there was a hit and run by a pickup truck driver which resulted in the death of a six-year-old and serious injury to two older children. A computer-generated animation illustrating the lead traffic homicide investigator’s reconstruction of the accident was introduced to establish the fault of the driver. In determining admissibility, four points were considered by the Florida court.

The court considered if the opinion evidence is helpful to the trier of fact; if the witness is qualified as an expert; if the opinion evidence is applied to evidence offered at trial; and if pursuant to section 90.403, Florida Statutes, the evidence, although technically relevant, does not present a substantial danger of unfair prejudice that outweighs its probative value. All these points were satisfied by the evidence of the expert witness and the evidence was deemed admissible. 

Cases of Inadmissibility

State v. Denton

In this case, a charge for attempted kidnapping, false imprisonment, and party to the crime of attempted robbery was brought against the defendant. Towards the end of the case, a computer-generated animation depicting the eyewitnesses’ testimony was introduced by the prosecution. 

The defendant raised an objection because of the lack of sufficient notice to permit proper rebuttal of the evidence which makes it unduly prejudiced. Also, the trial court failed to give a limiting cautionary instruction to the jury explaining that the animation was not evidence but an illustration of witness testimony.

In addition to that, the prosecutor presented unsworn and cross-examined testimony to the jury by narrating the animation. Also, the animation presented improper hearsay and only depicted certain versions of the incident, and animation was made without the proper methods and procedures in creating the animation. As a result of all these inconsistencies, the animation was held inadmissible.

Kane v. Triborough Bridge & Tunnel Authority

This case involved a claim in personal injury stating that the defendant negligently maintained work equipment even though they were worn and in a slippery condition. A trial animation was introduced to establish negligence. The animation failed to lay a foundation for its admission into evidence and depicted irregular and inaccurate facts of the case. The trial animation was deemed inadmissible for these reasons. 

It would be a waste of precious funds, time, and energy if an animation is rendered inadmissible during trial. Hence, in order to avoid a case of inadmissibility of your trial graphics, it’s best you work with an experienced trial graphics company

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