Skype: An Effective Tool for a Jury Trial6/19/2017 | By: Adam M. Felsenstein, Esq.
GDB attorney, Adam M. Felsenstein recently conducted a successful jury trial in which the defendant was ill on the proposed trial date, and was medically prohibited from coming to court to testify. The court suggested that the jury hear her proposed testimony via Skype. While it was a creative solution, neither Mr. Felsenstein nor the court could find anyone who had ever conducted a jury trial in this manner. In fact, research indicates that such a practice has been used rarely nationwide. Mr. Felsenstein had conducted many depositions by video, but never a cross-examination at trial.
Conducting an examination of a key trial witness in this way created a number of significant technical and logistical concerns. Chief amongst these, was how to effectively cross-examine a witness by video. How would she be confronted with documents? How to be certain that she wasn’t being coached during her testimony or referring to documents not in evidence? How to deal with jury speculation as to why she wasn’t present in the courtroom?
A little advanced planning went a long way. Prior to the trial, Mr. Felsenstein made several motions in limine dealing with how the witness could dress, where in her home the camera would be located, and requesting a limiting instruction precluding the jury from drawing any inference from the fact she was testifying by video. Then Mr. Felsenstein had an in court test run prior to the trial in order to test the limits of the technology. Accordingly, Mr. Felsenstein had advanced intelligence as to exactly how the witness would appear.
When it came time for the cross-examination, Mr. Felsenstein sent a colleague to sit with the witness and observe her to ensure she wasn’t being coached. The colleague also had a packet of pre-marked exhibits with which she could be confronted during cross-examination. Ultimately, the cross-examination was very effective. The jury got to see all the theatrics of a precision cross-examination while being able to observe the witness on a monitor in the courtroom.
If any of the lawyers out there face a similar circumstance, Mr. Felsenstein would be happy to discuss his experience in greater detail. Please contact Mr. Felsenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.