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Are Displays from Expert Witnesses Confusing to Jurors?

In some situations, displays that expert witnesses use may create confusion to jurors instead of providing clarification on an issue. The display interface can lead to misinterpretations and misunderstandings if the jurors are not as up to date on technology or how the display explains the material. Being aware of this information can help expert witnesses refrain from using confusing displays or use displays that increase juror understanding.

Electronic Displays

Some expert witnesses need to use electronic displays, such as computer monitors, microfiche with screen displays and whiteboards that provide the jurors with information about the case or the opinions of the expert witness. However, if the details are unclear or do not provide the best opportunity to see, those on the jury panel may become confused or may not understand certain aspects of the display. Other times, the expert does not give a clear explanation in the courtroom about the details that are included on the display. Any inability to plainly show or demonstrate the expert witness’ facts or opinions can
lead to further confusion.

Juror Evaluations

There are certain factors that can make displays easier to understand. These usually include the ability to see the display, speed or light that is optimal for all
viewers and technical devices that work properly. Additional information about what the jurors will see is vital from the professional before he or she starts the viewing process. Each person on the jury panel may evaluate what is shown differently. If these members are unable to competently and critically assess the information viewed, it can lead to further complications with the case.

Types of Displays

Whether the expert uses a display through a computer monitor, a white or blackboard or a television to show a video, the type of information displayed can affect the mood and tone of the case. Some experts will use medical information that is already confusing and may need to better explain details so jurors can comprehend them. Others in the tech field may lack the finesse in detailing how technical materials work and how it matters to the average person. The expert must have the ability to explain something to the average person that does not have a background in the field.

Statistical Data and Numbers

Many white-collar crimes involve both numbers and statistical data. In these cases, the jury panel may not understand how the use of these numbers affects the illegal activity. Sometimes, the verdict may be impacted by the inability to comprehend these materials. Jurors may fail to properly interpret what the expert witness says and could require a more comprehensive presentation that the display does not provide. If the jurors do not have the level of education that the expert witness does, this could lead to a failure to communicate during the case.

Assessing Confusion

Many expert witnesses may not fully understand that the display or the information within the display is confusing because they understand the material. Others are unaware there is a problem between the jury panel and the details presented. This disconnect may lead to a negative conclusion of the case. There are times when the gap in education between the expert witness and the jurors causes these problems as well. The solution for some of these difficulties is to recognize that the issue exists and find a way through it.

The expert witness may need to pick up on body language, expressions and other details with the jury panel. The expert witness
may also need to consult with the lawyer to determine if a problem is present with the jury panel. If the information is still confusing, it can lead to further complications with the jury members when they deliberate. The expert witness may need to further explain technical jargon, unravel confusion with numbers and statistical data and even redefine what certain aspects of the information mean. By understanding that a problem exists, the professional can work on solving it before the jury holds
confusing testimony or displays against the client.

The Expert Witness and Confusing Display Information

When confronting confusing information, the expert witness must determine how to explain the material in a way that an average person can understand. However, if this is not enough, he or she must reassess and deliver details that the jury panel can comprehend. This may increase the chances of the jurors understanding the details and the display aiding in their understanding. The expert witness should also work closely with the lawyer to ensure that the display will assist in the case.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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