As litigators, we strive to present evidence clearly to the jury, so they have the necessary information to render a verdict in favor of our client. We want jurors to hear a trial exhibit number, and then write it down, so they can refer to it in their notes during deliberation. Although this seems like an obvious proposition, I’m surprised how few litigators pay attention to highlighting exhibit numbers in their presentations for jurors.
Let Jurors Know the Trial Exhibit Numbers are Important
When I say “highlighting”, I mean is it important to let jurors know that you are giving them a crucial piece of evidentiary information — the exhibit number — and that you want them to write it down in their notes. There are a number ways to signal this to jurors. For example, when it comes time to introduce a piece of evidence, don’t race through the recitation of the exhibit number. In fact, do just the opposite. Slow down. Say to the court, “Your Honor, at this time I would like to introduce…”, then turn toward the jury, and in a strong voice reminiscent of a firm schoolteacher state, “Exhibit Number 5”. Pause for a moment to allow jurors to write down the exhibit number. The manner in which you announce the exhibit number to the jury is your cue to them that they should take the exhibit number as an important detail. In complex litigation, where we often admit well over a hundred exhibits, it’s especially important jurors don’t lose track of identifying exhibit information. Those exhibit numbers are the starting point of your road map for the jury.
You can increase the chances jurors will write down the exhibit numbers by keeping a special writing pad on an easel nearby and writing the exhibit number down on the pad after announcing to the jurors the exhibit number. Write it down in large print.
For those litigators who use courtroom technology to show exhibits on a screen, you can even create “documents” which are simply slides that say, “Plaintiff’s Exhibit Number 1”, “Plaintiff’s Exhibit Number 2”, etc.
By identifying exhibit information in this manner, you can be assured that jurors will not forget to make notations of this critical information.
Not to mention it identifies everything for the record.
Everything has a name, and names are important!
In a 6 week Multimillion dollar lawsuit attorneys regularly forgot that important lesson and referred to exhibits with names like “the june email” or “the spreadsheet we looked at last Thursday”.
The transcript, had we not created it electronically and linked the exhibits, would have been useless to the appeals court.