Animated Electronic Exhibits: Admissibility Issues

Animated Electronic Exhibits: Admissibility Issues

(1) Types of Computer-assisted "Animated" Exhibits:

(a) Event Sequence Reconstruction, a.k.a. Telling a Story: the computer is an artist's easel; a series of still images are shown in quick succession, thereby creating artificial motion or the passing of time. The objects (people, cars, buildings, landscaping) used may be drawn to scale, have great detail, or be just bare outer shells.

Some critics have called them hi-tech cartoons. Others use them as demonstrative evidence or to supplement opening arguments, and closing statements.

This type of animation is commonly used to: re-create events; summarize or illustrate the testimony of a lay witness or an expert's opinion; give the jury a "view" of places that have changed; or simplify complex technical processes.

(b) Simulations a.k.a. Actual Re-enactments: the forensic expert/engineer uses a specially written software to "re-create" an event or simulate reality inside a computer. The resulting animated re-enactment or diagram is a representation of the calculations (speed and weight of the car, road conditions, etc.) that have taken place inside the computer.

Simulations have been used as demonstrative evidence to help fact finders understand the Expert's findings, or help form the basis of expert testimony.

(2) Foundations for Admitting Computer Animated Exhibits as Demonstrative Evidence

(a) The animated exhibit must:

(1) Relate to some other evidence in the case
(2) Fairly and accurately reflect other evidence
(3) Be sufficiently illustrative or explanatory to be of potential help to the trier of fact

(b) Questions that need answers; potential objections

(1) Does the animation result in unfair prejudice...unduly arouse emotional responses, thereby outweighing its probative value?
(2) Does the animation confuse case issues or mislead the jury? Are the actual circumstances (of the accident) different from what the animation illustrates?
(3) Is the animation inaccurate or incomplete?
(4) Does the animation cause undue delay? Is it a waste of time or needless presentation of cumulative evidence?
(5) Is the animation or parts of it relevant? If it isn't, it is not admissible.
(6) Was opposing counsel provided with adequate opportunity to review the animated exhibit so as to properly cross examine the testifying expert witness?

(c) Questions for Simulations Before Trial

(1) Is the scientific theory underlying the computer program used to generate the animated evidence valid?
(2) Is the application of that theory generally accepted by the proper scientific community?
(3) Does the methodology produce accurate and valid data?

Animations prove nothing; animation is a series of illustrations. It is the facts that are the basis for your animation which actually prove or disprove what is being questioned. Animation will help you control how jurors interpret information by keeping them focused on key issues. That makes a lasting impression on jurors which they will remember throughout the trial.

Don't let this happen to you!