During a jury trial, one of the biggest challenges you face as a lawyer is trying to figure out what a jury wants or needs to hear. It’s often difficult to determine how your jury is interpreting the facts and evidence. Currently, lawyers are forced to decode a jurors body language and speculate as to its meaning.
This uncertainty is about to stop. Trials will involve real time feedback from jurors, the judge and almost everyone else, in and out of the courtroom, who may be participating in the event.
I’m talking about real-time video streaming technology now offered by new and increasingly popular apps like Meerkat, Periscope, Hangwith, and Stringwire. I believe this technology will change communication as we know it and alter how we will try cases in the future.
Meerkat and Periscope allow anyone to live stream anywhere in the world using a smartphone. Unlike ordinary video services, these streaming apps allow your audience of almost any size to communicate back to you in real time. These communications take the form of real-time comments, texting and other forms denoting approval like floating hearts and likes. In the future, I expect new feedback forms like video, audio, vibration and color responses to be added to the mix.
I recently used both Meerkat and Periscope to live stream my son’s soccer game to the world. By sharing a video of the game from the sidelines with my iPhone 6, soccer fans were able to view and comment on the play. Some enthusiastically corrected calls made out on the pitch by the referee. One viewer made me smile with his remarks about an AR (sideline referee) interacting with the coach in the heat of battle. The real-time back and forth with my audience created a unique event.
To understand how upcoming live real-time platforms like Meerkat and Periscope will change trial practice forever, consider the following:
You’re in the middle of cross-examination and a live video stream is being shared with your jury, judge and court staff. Depending on the court, the video stream is either projected overhead or to a more personal viewing device, like a smartphone or possibly wearable tech like Google Glass or Apple Watch.
As you ask witnesses questions, the jury is sharing instant feedback indicating they are interested in this particular area of inquiry, even suggesting that you dig deeper. Jurors share comments and give you guidance from their screens. Their input and feedback is instantly relayed to you via confidential text, comments, vibrations or colors. In real time, you can tell what they want to know and what is of interest to the 12 people who will be deciding your case. You are free to use the feedback or completely disregard it.
Let’s say you have an expert on the stand and are presenting a large diagram depicting a bridge showing its components and how it was constructed. As you ask your expert witness to explain different items on the exhibit, real-time comments and questions are streamed directly to you from one or more jurors. They ask for a clarification or possibly a more detailed description concerning an aspect of the exhibit. Depending on the relevance of their questions, you respond by spending a few more minutes with your expert answering the jurors’ questions. The result is a more effective use of your expert providing tailored information to your jury.
This real-time technology will be used by jurors and consulting experts both in and outside the courtroom. This added input will avoid issues being missed by the 12 most important people in the courtroom.
Currently, many trial judges are allowing jurors to submit written questions after lawyers are done examining a witness. Most of the time, jurors ask good questions, and it’s interesting for counsel and the judge to see what jurors are focusing on. If the juror questions are appropriate, the witness is asked questions. The result is a more satisfied and informed jury.
Apps like Meerkat, Periscope, Hangwith and Stringwire could compliment this process in real time and make the courtroom communication process much more efficient and meaningful. Ultimately, these apps could help jurors render a higher level of justice in our courtrooms.
There is no doubt that these types of apps will forever change how lawyers try cases. This real-time interaction during trial will allow an attorney to provide a more effective presentation to the judge and jury.
For trial lawyers, I hope we will have the chance to try a case together using this new technology. Until then, I look forward to seeing you around town, at the next legal convention and on the digital platforms. We can connect on Twitter, Meerkat and Periscope via @mitchjackson
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Jon Mitchell “Mitch” Jackson enjoys combining law, technology and social media to hack and improve our legal system. He has been a trial lawyer for 28 years and was a 2013 California Litigation Lawyer of the Year (CLAY Award) and 2009 Orange County Trial Lawyer of the Year. When he’s not trying cases, Mitch uses social media and technology to help good attorneys become great trial lawyers and to show everyone (not just lawyers) how to communicate better. His law firm website is JacksonandWilson.com and his communication tips blog is MitchJackson.com Outside of law and the courtroom, Mitch enjoys interviewing people from around the world who are disrupting industries and influencing change at Human.Social