In last week's blog entry, we discussed the foundations of trial presentation, right and wrong times to use it, and the most important part of this process, the Hot Seat Operator. In our 2nd installment, we'll continue to discuss highly effective ways to implement trial presentation into your case preparation and execution throughout your trial.
The Courtroom: Something else to consider is the courtroom itself. Some courtrooms are configured for electronic presentation while others are not. However, we've found that in many cases, the equipment setup in the courtroom isn't always dependable and up to date. You may need to provide the hardware components of the presentation including but not limited to laptops, backup systems, monitors, pro grade projector, quality projection screen, pro audio, wiring, cables, adapters, printer, copier, scanner, and networking to name a few. You won’t need to purchase all of this expensive hardware as there are equipment rental options in the marketplace. The issue then becomes being able to effectively run the software and troubleshoot glitches as they happen. Another issue to consider is ensuring that the hardware blends well throughout the courtroom so that it does not become a distraction. Or even worse, cables not being secured properly could present a safety concern as well. Equally as important is to notify your intention to utilize electronic trial presentation with the presiding judge. It’s important to get the Court’s position on the use of this technology in the courtroom so if a concern is raised, you can address them in advance of trial.
The Situation Room: A critical component to your success when using trial presentation technology is a war room. This is especially important when you are new to the use of electronic trial presentation. You’ll want to do numerous dry runs of your presentation so you can get accustomed to the look and feel of the exhibits as they are pulled up during your opening statement, direct examinations, and closing argument. Use the War Room as your opportunity to practice your pitch.
An ideal war room is setup to be a mirror match of the courtroom from a technological standpoint. It should be a place where the trial team can comfortably practice, gather exhibits, and prepare witnesses the night before you put them on the stand. Backup systems are important should your laptop turn up with the blue screen of death. This is why having contingency plans in place are essential. Keeping in mind that any updates made to the database as a function of changes made during the trial are all updated on the primary system, backup system and back up hard drives. Make sure that any limitations of the courtroom are matched in the war room. Is there a room in the courthouse that can be used for mid-trial tasks? Can you set up printing, copying and Internet capability there? Can the room be locked to prevent a would be thief from taking home your very expensive equipment? You may want 24/7 access to your war room, so the courthouse really isn’t your best choice. When working out of town, the war room should be as close to the courthouse as practical. Your best bet is to reserve a room that can be dedicated as your war room throughout the trial. We have had favorable experiences with hotel management making the necessary accommodations for us so we can have a room dedicated to around the clock trial prep.
The Equipment: As it relates to identifying the ideal hardware configuration for supporting electronic trial presentation, a “One Size Fits All” approach will not work. Not only do hardware capabilities change on a frequent basis, but courtroom presentation technology continues to rapidly advance. Also, the needs of your trial team will likely vary from case to case. As a general rule, lots of money is spent on what we call “CentCom”. This is of course is named after one the world renowned U.S. Central Command at MacDill AFB in Tampa. Very fast processers, truckloads of RAM, and high powered graphics cards should be on deck when it’s time to operate the presentation. The result will be a faster, sharper display of documents, videos and exhibits, especially when you work with large case files. One must also keep in mind that trial equipment should be upgraded on a regular basis. What was top of the line 3 years ago could qualify for entry into the Smithsonian Institute for Antique Computer Machinery in today’s standards.
Another consideration is that the Hot Seat Operator must run dual monitors at CentCom. If this isn’t happening, you’ve got a problem on your hands. This allows the presentation technologist to keep the presentation running on a dedicated screen while using the other monitor for other tasks like uploading new exhibits, on-the-fly changes to existing exhibits, and editing video depositions to reflect the Court’s rulings on admissibility or to be in compliance with agreed upon designations by both sides.
It’s also important make sure the contents in your database are backed up frequently should something go awry. Your presentation is likely to be contained on a single computer, typically a laptop. What would happen if the computer were dropped, damaged or stolen? This is why your Hot Seat Operator should have an external hard drive with enough storage space to keep your entire case file backed up. Such drives are about the size of a Samsung phablet. All it takes is plugging the hard drive into your backup laptop, upload your case along with any updates that were not already backed up and you’re back in business. I can’t stress enough the importance of having a contingency plan in place in the event Murphy’s Law kicks in. And trust me, it will.
[This concludes part 2 of this series. In the next installment, we’ll discuss software, preparing exhibits, and more.]
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