Demonstrative Evidence

Since the days of “show & tell,” “demonstrative type evidence” has been a very important teaching tool. Learning through seeing and hearing things is much easier and more fun. Most jury psychologists, including Amy Singer, believe that people learn much more through seeing and hearing rather than from hearing alone. Accordingly, demonstrative evidence should be used at trial to give the jury a better understanding of your case. The use of demonstrative evidence usually grasps the jury’s attention and often has them sitting at the edge of their seats when things like models and objects in the litigation are being shown. Demonstrative evidence consists of trial exhibits that are admitted in evidence or visual aids that will not be entered in evidence, but are simply used by a witness or by the lawyer to explain matters that are relevant to the trial. Demonstrative evidence includes models, medical devices, diagrams, photographs, sketches, objects at issue, etc. Before a demonstrative exhibit may be used at trial, a witness should establish that the exhibit looks like and is substantially the same as the object or area in question. If using a model, make sure that it fairly and accurately represents the original and that it has been built to scale. You will need to establish this at trial before the use of the exhibit is allowed. This predicate must often be established through expert testimony. A witness intending on using an exhibit as an aid should first explain that the use of the exhibit will facilitate the presentation of the testimony to the jury. Pursuant to Florida Rule of Evidence, §90.901, “authentication or identification of evidence is required as a condition precedent to its admissibility. The requirements of this section are satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.” Thus, demonstrative exhibits must constitute an accurate and reasonable reproduction of the objects or matters involved in the actual case. Brown v. State of Florida, 557 So.2d 527 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989). Before a demonstrative exhibit will be allowed to be shown to the jury, it must first be established by a witness that the model is a reasonably exact reproduction or replica of the object involved, that when viewed by the jury it causes them to see substantially the same object or scene as the original in question. Alston v. Shiver, 105 So.2d 785, 791 (Fla. 1958). If a witness is not able to state that the demonstrative exhibit is in substantially the same condition and appears substantially the same as the object in trial, then such a deficiency will be fatal to the admissibility of the demonstrative exhibit and the court will generally not allow the exhibit to be used during trial. Gencorp, Inc. v. Wolfe, 481 So.2d 109, 111 (Fla. 1st DCA 1983). If a trial attorney is attempting to keep out an exhibit during trial, the argument that should be made is that the exhibit does not truly and accurately portray what it purports to portray. Additionally, a trial attorney may argue that the exhibit is not necessary in assisting the witness to explain his/her testimony to the jury. Finally, if the model is of the type that may mislead the jury or cause confusion or undue prejudice, then a motion pursuant to Florida Rule of Evidence, §90.403, may be made that the probative effect of the model is greatly outweighed by its prejudice. The determination as to whether an exhibit accurately represents the object or area in the case is a matter decided by the trial court. Whether to allow the use of a demonstrative exhibit is a matter strictly within the trial court’s discretion. Brown v. State of Florida. 557 So.2d 527 (Fla. 1st DCA 1989); Federal Savings & Loan v. Wylie, 46 So.2d 396 (Fla. 1950); Alston v. Shiver, 105 So.2d 785 (Fla. 1958). A trial attorney who does not use demonstrative exhibits during a trial is at a great disadvantage because chances are the other side will effectively use them. Demonstrative exhibits help to bring the case alive and keeps the jury interested and focused on what is being presented. Demonstrative exhibits should be used anytime the opportunity arises.