Attorneys use technology to make their arguments

The Associated Press
Monday September 11, 2000

SAN FRANCISCO — Some trial lawyers are tossing out posterboards and overhead projectors in favor of computer presentations and other technology to help illustrate their arguments for jurors. 

Others aren’t so quick to embrace the technology that some claim is the future of courtroom action. 

But as attention spans drop and computer use increases, attorneys are looking for some way to keep jurors interested and to win cases. 

Studies show the average person can keep interested for only 11 to 15 minutes. 

“You ask what people watched on TV last night and they say ’everything,”’ said Nancy O’Malley, Alameda County chief assistant district attorney. “We have to have a way to keep those jurors engaged in our case or they will zone out, or they won’t remember, and they won’t pay attention, and at the end, they won’t retain the important information that you need them to retain to vote guilty.” 

Dodie Katague, a Contra Costa County deputy district attorney, is a firm believer in the power of technology in the courtroom. 

“I believe in my cases – complex cases that I do which involve white-collar fraud, using (technology) made many of those cases end successfully,” Katague said. “It certainly helped explain complex litigation easily to a jury.” 

“We have all these phobias about problems like hard drives crashing and stuff like that,” said Larry Blazer, an Alameda County prosecutor who has won cases using presentation software. “Most of the lawyers up here don’t use it. I think a lot of people are really minimalist when it comes to trying cases.” 

Convincing others in the court system that technology is beneficial is also sometimes hard. Judges have the final say about what they let in the courtroom, and some do not grant requests to bring in computers. 

“One of the reasons (Contra Costa District Attorney Gary Yancey) decided to come on board is because a defense attorney beat the pants off us,” Katague said. “I’ve been begging for years to get this LCD projector, saying ‘Let’s get PowerPoint and this other equipment,’ and they wouldn’t do it.” 

Then this defense attorney beat the pants off the prosecutor and the next thing you know, I got the approval to buy the equipment.”