Volume 18, Number 8
December 2001


Trial Director
Orchestrate Your Trial Demonstrations

By James M. Wood

Picture this: You are a plaintiff's counsel in the thick of trial. You represent young parents and their three small children who were seriously injured on their way to school. At noon on a clear day, a dot-com entrepreneur scrambling to a meeting broadsided them in a controlled intersection. The accident totaled both cars and the family was hospitalized for a full month. The police investigating the accident concluded that the entrepreneur, distracted by a cell phone call, ran a red light and collided with the family's car mid-intersection.

You are in trial; your first witness is the entrepreneur-defendant. He has a persuasive presence and his testimony is crisp. The jury likes him and you feel that the case is slipping away. Until this exchange occurs:
You: Tell the ladies and gentlemen of the jury what you were doing just before the moment of impact.
Defendant: The traffic was heavy, so I was driving as carefully as I could.
You: While you were driving as carefully as you could, did your cell phone ring?
Defendant: Yes, it did...but I kept my eyes on the road.
You: Did you see the color of the traffic light?
Defendant: Yes, I did.
You: What color was that light?
Defendant: Green.

Green?! Everything you know about the accident proves the light was red at the time of the accident. Your clients say that it was red. The police report says that it was red. Witnesses in the crosswalk say that it was red. And best of all: The defendant in his deposition has admitted that it was red.

You prepare to subject him to the cross-examination of his life. The old way:

  • You read from your dog-eared, Post-it note-covered deposition transcript where the defendant admitted that the light was red.
  • You hold up the copy of the police report (if admissible) on the 36-by-48-inch cardboard blowup whose corners are dented from being packed in your car's trunk (legible only to jurors within a foot and a half of the blowup).
  • You draw the intersection on an easel with pens that you hope have not run out of ink. The new way: You use technology that brings the case to life. Cross-examination comes out of the mouth of the witness. Key exhibits can be seen by all.

A Synchronized Presentation

One effective technology to use is TrialDirector, created by InData Software LLC. With this technology, as well as the related DocumentDirector and Deposition Director, your cross-examination would include:

  • Video playback of the defendant's deposition admission that the light was red.
  • Split-screen playback of the deposition transcript running simultaneously on the screen with the video.
  • A video presentation of the police report with electronic capabilities to blow up and highlight portions that you want the witness to focus on.

DepositionDirector lets counsel synchronize text and audio/video deposition transcript clips from common VHS tapes and standard ASCII transcripts. In preparing for cross-examination, counsel searches for key words in DepositionDirector, highlights the selected testimony, and clips it into TrialDirector ready to present to the jury. The program can be linked to most deposition manager tools including Summation, LiveNote, and Discovery. Its capabilities are not limited to depositions; any conversation on tape can be converted for use through DepositionDirector. Cross-examination is prepared in the usual way: Key points are outlined. But instead of page and line citations, a bar code is taped on the outline. With the wave of a wand across the code, impeaching testimony in video and text form is brought to the jury. If an exhibit is referred to in the deposition, the document can be simultaneously displayed to the jury.

Counsel has the option of presenting the video testimony alone or in combination with the typed transcript.

About that police report: Document Director has the capability to contain in a single file your complete evidentiary documents: police reports, medical records, and earnings statements. The program can be linked to most litigation databases such as Summation, Concordance, Microsoft Access, and Paradox. Documents in a variety of formats can also be loaded into DocumentDirector, including presentations created in Adobe Acrobat or PowerPoint.

Photos, clips, and audio/video streams can also be used. Each document can be dragged or dropped into preassigned folders for ease in organization, then sorted by type. Folders corresponding to opening statement, specific witnesses, specific issues, and closing arguments can be created for easy access. A specific exhibit can be annotated or highlighted in the program to create different versions for different witnesses. For example, with the defendant on the stand you could highlight the police report's reference to the color of the traffic light and perhaps to the specific vehicle code section violated. With the scan of a pen, the police report with the finding that the defendant ran the red light is blown up for the jury.

A variety of tools can be used during trial to highlight critical parts of the report, including boxing out a segment, highlighting a line in yellow, or leading the eyes of the jury to evidence with a variety of pointers. Highlighting tools can be used by counsel or by the witness when talking about a document. If an exhibit has been created for display during the trial, TrialDirector can save it as a separate exhibit. Another benefit is that TrialDirector permits counsel to compare two to four exhibits simultaneously as well as to use a variety of annotation tools. If a document is in a foreign language, two versions of the documents (original and translation) can be displayed simultaneously. Once your exhibit file is completed, DocumentDirector can print out exhibit outlines for use in hard-copy trial notebooks.

System Requirements

The software comes with a thorough and clearly written user's manual. Hardware required for the program (without video capability) includes:

  • Pentium 266 MHz processor.
  • Windows 98/NT 4.0 with SP 3 or 4/2000.
  • 64 MB RAM.
  • SVGA monitor (800 x 600) at 16 million colors (high color or true color).
  • 4 GB hard disk space available.
  • 6x (or better) CD-ROM.

If you want to run the entire system, video and all, you will need:

  • Pentium III with 600 MHz processor.
  • Windows 98/NT 4.0 with SP 3 or 4/2000.
  • 256 MB RAM.
  • Sound card and speakers (required for video functions).
  • AGP video adapter with 16 MB RAM.
  • SVGA monitor (800 x 600) at 16 million colors (high color or true color).
  • Dual VGA output.
  • 12 GB hard disk space available.
  • 24x (or better) CD-ROM.

TrialDirector integrates it all. Its technology permits counsel to control where documents or videos appear on the screen in the courtroom, and offers tools to mark up and highlight key points. If a document is displayed, a portion can be highlighted and extracted while its position in the original document is shown. TrailDirector is also the source for displaying all documents, photos, video transcripts, and clips.

James M. Wood's practice for the past 25 years has focused on the representation of manufacturers of prescription medicines and medical devices. He is a frequent lecturer and author on defending drug and medical device cases.

Visit InData's website (www.indatacorp.com/software/trialdirector.html) for more information about TrialDirector and its siblings. The site has concise summaries of the benefits and capabilities of TrialDirector, DocumentDirector, and DepositionDirector. It includes a user-friendly online tutorial for the first-time user of any of the programs. The site also features a demonstration of the software.

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