With the recent trial of Casey Anthony coming to a surprising conclusion for many, the case has been compared to other high profile trials, including those of O.J. Simpson and Robert Blake. Defense attorney Jose Baez and his team prevailed, due to insufficient evidence to support the charges. Different charges certainly might have delivered a guilty verdict.
I served on the defense team of Robert Blake, led by M. Gerald Schwartzbach, one of the truly great attorneys of our time. If you or anyone you know needs a great criminal defense attorney, give him a call. He may even bring me along (if you mention you read this article). For another professional reference, here’s a Celebrity endorsement:
Robert Blake: Gerry Schwartzbach "will never be rich" (brief video clip)
I wrote an article for Technolawyer back in 2005, which I will share here now, with a few minor updates. Shortly after publication, I received this note:
Your article was one of the best we’ve ever published! Thank you!Neil J. Squillante, Publisher TechnoLawyer/PeerViews Inc.
I hope you’ll enjoy the article. I will post this in two parts. Don’t miss the extra bonus material at the end of part two.
|Gerry Schwartzbach, Robert Blake, Ted Brooks|
During the Robert Blake murder trial, M. Gerald Schwartzbach and his defense team called upon trial and technology consultant Ted Brooks to assist with the trial presentation. In this article, Ted shares his perspective, and provides a behind-the-scenes look at this widely-followed celebrity trial. In particular, he contrasts the trial presentation methods used by the defense and prosecution.
TechnoFeature: Inside Robert Blake's High-Tech DefenseBy Ted Brooks
(This article is a TechnoLawyer Exclusive.)
The Robert Blake murder trial captivated the nation. This article discusses the technology used by the defense team and how it compared with that used by the prosecution.
Robert Blake's jury consultant, Lois Heaney (National Jury Project), initially contacted me to meet with attorney M. Gerald (Gerry) Schwartzbach several months prior to the trial date to discuss trial presentation and technology. Lois and I had worked together in the past, and Gerry had never before used technology in trial.
It helps, particularly in larger matters, to involve a trial technology consultant early in the process. Doing so can greatly reduce the amount of duplicative and/or wasted efforts.
The defense team had chosen Summation software as the document database, and had created a second database for photos. Summation made it easy for the team to efficiently search and review nearly 40,000 documents and 5,000 photos. The Summation database also included many transcripts of LAPD interviews, preliminary hearings, and the like.
First, we sent our Summation guru, Reggie Pool, to clean up the database, identify and correct any technical "issues," and then copy the database. Reggie worked on several document coding and numbering issues, and then gathered a full copy. This copy would be used during trial, and also converted to TrialDirector for presentation in court.
Normally, a very simple conversion link exists between the two programs. In this case, there were simply too many inconsistencies to enable a smooth conversion. To avoid this problem, make sure that all coding fields (i.e., Author, Date, etc.) are set up correctly, document numbering formats remain consistent, and the database itself is designed, developed, and maintained properly. A database does not know how to forgive human input error -- it simply takes all information and then attempts to organize it.
Because of these issues, we used LoadFile Pro by Image Capture Engineering to generate the proper files to populate a new TrialDirector database, which would include all contents of both Summation databases. By the end of the trial, the new database held over 73,000 combined document and photo images (pages), plus all of the transcripts.
Once we gathered all the data and created a new TrialDirector database, the defense team could search all the document images and photos simultaneously. All transcripts were included as well, and many were "digitized" to enable searching of the transcripts and playback of the corresponding video or audio. Perhaps the most notable use of this technology during the trial was an edited portion of Robert's 20-20 interview with Barbara Walters, played during the opening argument, during the trial as an exhibit, and during the closing argument.
We then conducted a thorough search and review of the photos, using the capabilities of TrialDirector to quickly review and zoom in on desired items, annotating and identifying them for quick retrieval. During this process, we made many important discoveries, including one photo of an LAPD Detective who didn't even realize he was in the picture -- until we zoomed in on him in front of the jury.
Every document page was reviewed, and rotated if necessary for proper display. Having the two databases combined enables you to search everything at once.
Nothing will happen with all of this preparation if the court is not consulted prior to coming in and setting up your equipment. In this case, as with most others, we visited the courtroom, and met with the court staff and Judge Darlene Schempp to learn about previous trials, especially the positive and negative experiences.
This "scouting" quickly alerted us to a problem that needed attention in that particular courtroom: the placement of a projector and screen -- typically a small screen and a projector, placed in between counsel and the jurors, provided by the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office.
The Court decided that we would provide the equipment for both sides of this trial (this is typical, as only one set of equipment will normally fit and be allowed by the Judge), so we had to come up with a solution -- with the added conditions that alternate jurors would sit beyond the end of the jury box, over 25 feet away from the screen, and the courtroom would fill with media eager to see the evidence.
To ensure visibility, we installed an eight-foot screen against the rear wall and a 3500 lumen projector with a wide-angle lens, providing space for us to place the projector very close to the screen. As a result, the projector stood far enough forward so as not to interfere with counsel as they addressed the jury, and also gave plenty of screen visibility to the entire courtroom. Some of the journalists even complimented the setup.