Inside Track: Learn to Use Technology at Trial with Newly Revised Wisconsin Criminal Defense Manual:

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    Learn to Use Technology at Trial with Newly Revised Wisconsin Criminal Defense Manual

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    June 17, 2015 – Courtroom technology can make complex evidence more understandable to a jury, and courts generally encourage it if the presentation is relevant and fairly and accurately reflects or enhances the testimony and other evidence. But lawyers must know its limitations as well.

    All of that – and much, much more – is addressed in State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE’s Wisconsin Criminal Defense Manual, newly revised for 2015.

    Simple uses of technology at trial include timelines, charts, showing a chain of events, photographs, and video of actual events. More advanced uses include animations, recreations, and illustrations. But technology is not an end in itself.

    The lawyer must ensure that it used to enhance the presentation of the client’s cause, and never to detract from it. And the lawyer must never forget that his or her duty of competence includes being capable of operating any technology used at trial.

    The following tips on making best use of technology at trial are drawn from Chapter Seven of the Wisconsin Criminal Defense Manual:

    • Decide how to use technology, given the local rules and the judge’s preferred practices;

    • To the extent possible, provide opposing counsel with a copy of defense exhibits and solicit a stipulation to avoid any issue regarding admissibility or use during trial, and seek court approval of any technology that might be used during opening statement;

    • Iron out any bugs or kinks in the use of the equipment, well before trial;

    • Learn what equipment is available in the courtroom, again well before trial;

    • Visit the courtroom before trial to make sure of the layout, sight lines, and available equipment;

    • Make sure that all exhibits are admitted into evidence, preferably in hard copy format, but when necessary in electronic format;

    • Lay a proper foundation for the demonstrative evidence before displaying it to the jury;

    • Evaluate whether an item to be used as a demonstrative aid is likely to draw an objection;

    • Have sufficient computer and printing equipment available for use during trial;

    • Remember that simulations and animations must be based on scientific principles, and if serving as a basis for expert opinions, they must meet the same standards governing the other requirements for provision of expert opinion; and

    • Whenever possible, use another person during trial to ensure the technology is effectively and efficiently presented.

    Of course, making best use of technology is only one aspect of criminal defense. For more detailed discussion of this, and nearly every other aspect of criminal defense, get the latest edition of the Wisconsin Criminal Defense Manual, available in print ($179 for members) and via Books UnBound ($149), the State Bar’s interactive online library.

    For more information, or to place an order, visit the WisBar Marketplace or call the State Bar at (800) 728-7788 or (608) 257-3838. Subscribers to the State Bar’s automatic supplementation service will receive future updates at a discount off the regular price.

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