Using Computer-Generated Animation and Simulation Evidence at Trial: What you ought to Know


The use of computer-generated animations and simulations is on the increase in courtrooms around the country, and permanently reason—animations and simulations can greatly increase jurors’ understanding of complex issues and are of extraordinary help in products liability cases especially. However, animation and simulation evidence also can be a distraction to jurors, can carry more influence than it should, and may distort the facts of a case. In short, this emerging sort of evidence may be a powerful persuasive tool.

Courts are conscious of the influence of those new evidential devices, and have established guidelines for his or her admission.

First, courts must determine whether the proposed evidence is an animation or a simulation, which carry different standards of admissibility. Computer-generated evidence are often either demonstrative or substantive in nature. for instance , animations are generally considered to be demonstrative evidence, as they're usually offered as a visible aid in support of witness testimony. See, e.g., People v. Cauley, 32 P.3d 602, 606–07 (Colo. Ct. App. 2001); Hinkle v. City of Clarksburg, 81 F.3d 416, 425 (4th Cir. 1996) (citing Datskow v. Teledyne Continental Motors Aircraft Prods., 826 F. Supp. 677, 686 (W.D.N.Y. 1993)). Animations don't purport to be scientific recreations of actual events, but rather visual representations of a witness’ recollection or understanding of events. Clark v. Cantrell, 529 S.E.2d 528, 535 (S.C. 2000). Nonetheless, a thoughtfully conceived animation can have considerable impact on jurors’ understanding of an occasion in dispute in litigation.

On the opposite hand, simulations are generally considered to be substantive evidence. Id. at 535 n.2; cf. Commonwealth v. Serge, 896 A.2d 1170, 1175 (Pa. 2006) (using the animation/simulation distinction). Simulations are computer-generated models or reconstructions supported scientific principles and actual data relevant to the events giving rise to the litigation. Harris v. State, 13 P.3d 489, 494 n.6 (Okla. Ct. Crim. App. 2000), cert. denied, 532 U.S. 1025, 121 S. Ct. 1971 (2001) (citing Kristin L. Fulcher, Comment, The Jury as Witness: Forensic Computer Animation Transports Jurors to the Scene of a criminal offense or Automobile Accident, 22 U. Dayton L. Rev., 55, 58 (1996)). Whereas animations are depictions of fact witness testimony, simulations can produce to expert testimony.

Second, after the initial animation/simulation determination has been made, courts must consider the foundational evidentiary requirements for every . See, e.g., State v. Sayles, 662 N.W.2d 1, 9 (Iowa 2003). For animations, general requirements applicable to all or any demonstrative evidence must be shown (i.e., that the evidence is authentic, relevant, fair and accurate, and not substantially prejudicial). See, e.g., Fed. R. Evid. 401, 403. against this , simulations are subjected to a heightened scrutiny appropriate for science-based evidence. The proponent of a simulation must show that it's “based upon sufficient facts or data,” which “are of a kind reasonably relied upon by experts within the particular field,” that the simulation is “the product of reliable principles and methods,” which the supporting witness (i.e., the expert which will introduce and explain the simulation) “applied principles and methods reliably” when creating or using the simulation. Fed. R. Civ. P. 702, 703.

There are some common objections to animation and simulation evidence that counsel should anticipate (and employ). Because simulations are generally offered within the context of expert testimony, challenges to the present evidence often are going to be made within the context of Daubert motion practice. Computer-generated evidence is additionally usually generated late within the course of pre-trial preparations, and thus counsel should disclose the evidence within an inexpensive time before trial to forestall timeliness objections.

Counsel should also consider requesting that cautionary or limiting instructions tend to the jury. Requests for such instructions are nearly always granted and are getting standard in many trial courts. Appropriate cautionary instructions should address the character of computer-generated evidence also because the weight that it should tend by the jury in its consideration of all the evidence of the case. especially , the instructions should include (1) an admonition that the jury isn't to offer the animation or simulation more weight simply because it comes from a computer; (2) a press release clarifying that the exhibit is predicated on the supporting witness’ evaluation of the evidence; and (3) within the case of an animation, a press release that the evidence isn't meant to be a particular recreation of the event, but is, instead, a representation of the witness’ testimony.

Computer-generated evidence has become more and more common in today’s courtrooms, and nearly every state and federal circuit has addressed its use. For further information on this subject, including a compendium of recent case law within the 50 states and 11 federal circuits, please vie “The Use of Computer-Generated Animations and Simulations at Trial.”

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