Studies show that jurors can recall only about 20 percent of what they have heard. By contrast, they retain more than 80 percent of what they simultaneously hear and see. Yet many lawyers continue to believe that if they simply say it in the courtroom, then jurors will hear it, understand it, and remember it. (This misperception may have something to do with the ease with which lawyers themselves remember what they hear.)
In our interviews with jurors, they tell us what frustrates them about trial presentations. The complaints we typically hear from jurors are that the evidence was technically overwhelming (patent claims), sequentially confusing (What happened first? What happened next?), or spatially disorienting (Where exactly was the witness standing when the accident happened? How far was she from the scene?). The problem becomes acute when jurors have no life experiences, training, or background that can help them navigate these cognitive challenges. Powerful graphics make their job, and yours, dramatically easier.
That is because the vast majority of jurors are visual learners. Forget jurors’ visual bias, and you risk losing the jury. But pair a spoken cue with a vivid graphic, and you engage the entire room, not just now but for the long term. At Jonathan Leach, LLC, we view graphics development as a central part of the larger effort to reach and teach the jury. We have helped trial teams throughout the United States develop and present visual explanations for a vast array of issues and concepts. We know from experience that a clear and clever graphic can be worth at least as much as…yes, a thousand words.
What Kinds of Graphics Can We Create?
The right visual to use is the one that most immediately and most memorably conveys a particular piece of information. The kinds of graphics we have designed include:
- Textpulls are parts of important documents, with highlighted portions “pulled out,” for emphasis and ease of reading
- 3-D models that help jurors appreciate spatial arrangements
- Timelines, showing key events in left-to-right, storyline fashion
- Flowcharts that guide jurors through each step in a process, such as a manufacturing process, a decision tree, or another series of steps
- Graphs or charts that allow jurors to make side-by-side comparisons of data
- Animations that (for example) allow a vehicle, accident scene, or complex surgery to “come alive” in front of jurors
- Illustrations explaining the evidence in terms of a visual analogy that jurors will more easily understand: for example, depicting high-stakes investors as gamblers at a poker table
- And of course, the tried-and-true organizational chart, helping jurors understand the relative positions and responsibilities of individual actors in the case.
The Numerous Benefits of Using Graphics
In his essay on Memory, Aristotle observed that “memory, even the memory of concepts, cannot exist apart from imagery.” He could have been speaking directly to an audience of trial lawyers. Our American culture is increasingly visual. Our lives now are so dependent on imagery that when we are asked to learn something, we expect to be shown it. And as even Aristotle was well aware, you cannot expect jurors to remember something you’ve said, unless you have shown it to them, too. Jurors who may not immediately grasp the implications of a key document may find it much easier to understand when the relevant language is highlighted and visually “pulled out” for them. Issues of agency and authority inside an organization may become clear to a juror only when he or she can see the actual chains of command in an organizational chart. Deciding whether a patent has been infringed may depend upon explanatory graphics that compare its features with those of a competing product. And beyond their immediate effectiveness as teaching tools, good trial graphics often come into play long after they are first introduced, when jurors refer to them in deliberations. Jurors’ own “memory of concepts” may depend on how well those concepts were communicated during the trial.