If you try enough cases, you’ll eventually get your hands on “It.” “It” is that amazing piece of evidence that makes or breaks your case. “It” takes on many different forms:
- The “Are you lying then or are you lying now?” prior inconsistent statement
- The “I did it, and I’d do it again!” confession
- The video of the “disabled” plaintiff easily lifting 50 lb. bags of mulch or participating in semi-professional wrestling matches
- The “smoking gun” email that proves the defendant knew about the potential danger and decided to cover it up rather than recall the product
“It” is that piece of evidence that you can’t wait to show to the jury. You won’t have “It” in every case, but when you do, it’s a wonderful feeling. You know that as soon as you show “It” to the jury, the case will be won.
But hold on just a second. There’s something important you should know before you show “It” to the jury.
No matter how damning that prior inconsistent statement may be, it’s worthless if the jury can’t hear it. Even if your video completely contradicts the plaintiff’s claims, it’s worthless if the jury can’t see it. Some jurors are too embarrassed to admit they can’t hear the recording, can’t read your exhibit, or can’t see your video. You need to be assured that they see and hear “It.” Here’s how to do it:
1. How to guarantee that the jury hears every word of your recorded statement. As you start playing the audio recording, cup your hand over your ear and make eye contact with each and every juror. Non-verbally, you’re asking them if they can hear the statement. If they can hear it, they’ll nod their heads in agreement or give you a “thumbs-up” sign. If they can’t hear, they’ll give you a non-verbal clue to raise the volume (or maybe even tell you, “Turn it up, I can’t hear!”)
Here’s an added benefit: Making eye contact with each juror forces you to “check in” with them, so you can evaluate how things are going.
2. How to guarantee that the jury sees your video. Get to the courtroom early and set up your video display. Turn on your video, then climb into the jury box. Sit in every seat in the jury box so you can see what your jurors will see. Do you need to crane your neck to see the video? When you move to the end of each row, does it become difficult to see the video screen? Is the screen too close? Too far? Make any adjustments now, before the jury gets here, so you can be assured that they’ll see your evidence.
Once you start playing the video for the jury, you’ll want to repeat the step outlined above to ensure that they can hear the recording. While you’re making eye contact with each juror, track their sightline. Can they actually see the video? Are they actually looking at it? If not, make any necessary adjustments so they can view your evidence.
3. How to guarantee that the jury reads your exhibit. If you’re presenting written exhibits to the jury (such as posters of the jury instructions or blow-ups of contract highlights) you want to make sure the jury actually reads your exhibit. To make sure they have enough time to read it, quietly read through the entire exhibit to yourself twice. You’re already familiar with the exhibit, so you’re going to read through it faster than your jurors will. After your second read-through, take a moment to make eye contact with every juror. Look at their eye movement. If they’re looking at you, they’re ready for you to proceed. But if you see they’re still reading, don’t say anything yet. Wait until everyone has finished reading before you or your witness say anything about the exhibit.
If you’ve done your homework, you already know how to make “It” admissible. You also know when you should publish “It” for maximum persuasive effect. Now just follow these simple tips, and you’ll guarantee that jurors will see and hear your most important evidence.