As I watched this video of Eric Clapton and John Mayer enjoying themselves in a little friendly dueling guitars session, I watched how easy they make it look to rip the guitar solos in the classic Cream song, Crossroads. I play(ed) guitar, and I know from personal experience – it isn’t easy. As I rocked out, I considered how this might also apply to a Trial Lawyer presenting the perfect Opening Statement, or perhaps her Trial Presentation Consultant helping to “argue” the exhibits, by bringing up the correct exhibit on cue, highlighting the key text, underlining a word, or perhaps drawing an arrow pointing to the smoking gun on a demonstrative – all without direction. It just flows – it looks easy. Once again, I know from personal experience – it isn’t. It takes a great deal of training and experience to make it happen.
Perhaps two recent high profile cases turned at least partially upon the fact that the government didn’t seem to think it was necessary to retain assistance for trial presentation consulting.
In the Casey Anthony trial (see Casey Anthony Verdict: Was it Wrong?), it appears the Prosecution may have believed and bought into their own story, and that they didn’t have a good reality check in place. A good Trial Consultant can provide just that. As a thirteenth juror, listening, observing, and offering an objective opinion on the case, before and during the trial. I’m not describing a Trial Technician here, but rather someone who has dozens, or even hundreds of trials under their belt. It is not uncommon for a trial team who has been working for months or years on a case, to begin assuming that the basics are understood and clear to anyone. That is not the case. The jury knows little or nothing about your case. Getting some feedback from the jury would be ideal, but getting a similar perspective from someone on the “outside” is as close as you can get.
In the Roger Clemens trial (see Roger Clemens Mistrial: Top Ten Tips for Vetting Your Trial Presentation Consultant), it appears that whoever was presenting the evidence may have committed an error as well. If so, it could be that the offending testimony was played, when it should never have been available in the database, having previously been ruled as inadmissible. Perhaps it was also an error on the part of the trial presenter to leave the hearsay testimony up on the screen for the jury to read, during the sidebar. This is a good example of what not to do, and also a good example of what can happen when it’s done by someone who lacks the actual trial experience of someone who makes it look easy – just like Eric Clapton and John Mayer.
With that, I close with one final question: Is it worth the risk not hiring a Trial Presentation Consultant?