When a criminal case reaches a courtroom, much of the evidence has to do with the testimonies of witnesses. Those witnesses provide information about what they saw, heard, and experienced as it relates to the case at hand. While this type of testimony is essential in terms of establishing how certain events came to pass, there is another kind of evidence that will also be included during the course of the case. That type of information is known as demonstrative evidence.
What is Demonstrative Evidence?
This approach to presenting evidence relies on the use of objects to provide more comprehensive information about the course of events that led to the present case. The reason behind using objects is allowing jurors and judges the opportunity to harness more of their senses in understanding each aspect of the case. Given the gravity of criminal charges, both the prosecution and the defense may seek to use some sort of object or collection of objects in order to clarify the setting, tone, and sequence of events so that justice is served.
Examples of Demonstrative Evidence
One of the most common examples of this type of evidence are exhibits that are presented to the court and allowed to be entered into the proceedings. In many cases, items of this type are alleged to have some relation to the crime and the site where the event took place. For example, a weapon that is believed to have been used in an assault on the victim may be presented to the court and allowed to be marked as part of the evidence. Depending on the nature of the case, the jurors may be allowed to examine the exhibits during the trial or while the jury is in deliberation.
Photographs are also introduces as this type of evidence. The photographs may be images of the site where the alleged crime took place, of the victim, or candid shots taken just before the action under consideration took place. The goal is to provide a better understanding of the setting in which the action took place and what the results of those actions happened to be.
Sound recordings, especially of interactions between the victim and the defendant, can also prove helpful in a court of law. The ability of jurors to hear what is said and the tone used by each party can have an affect on how they perceive the words exchanged between the two.
Simulations can also be used in a court of law and serve as this type of evidence. Whether using people or utilizing digital technology, the simulation provides a real-time recreation of what the prosecutor or defense attorney perceives as what occurred just before, during, and after the crime took place. This approach requires strict attention to detail in terms of scale, placement of furnishings, and the position and actions of the people involved. Presentations of this type have been known to shed additional light on the case and ultimately impact the decision of a jury.
Laying a Foundation
The use of demonstrative evidence in a court of law requires that it be relevant to the case. Attempting to introduce anything from an item to be identified as an exhibit to asking the court permission to stage a reenactment of an event requires that the legal counsel provide a foundation for the action. In other words, there must be a reason to introduce the evidence and the court must be convinced that doing so will bring additional clarity to the deliberations.
In order to lay that foundation, the lawyer will build on testimony and other forms of evidence already introduced into the trial. Doing so provides a basis for considering the exhibit or demonstration in light of what has already taken place during the proceedings. In the best-case scenario, it will be easy to show why such an action is directly related to the case, the previously presented evidence, and has the potential to make the proper interpretation of the evidence easier for everyone involved.
The ultimate goal of any court is to ensure that those responsible for the criminal offense are convicted and receive a just sentence. That aim also includes avoiding the conviction of a person who is not guilty as charged. By making use of all forms of evidence, including demonstrative evidence, a criminal lawyer is in a better position to ensure those goals are achieved.