Demonstrative exhibits can be powerful, game-changing tools at trial. A well-conceived demonstrative can both clearly explain a complex concept and memorably frame your theory of the case. And in the latest episode of Trial Technique Spotlight, trial presentation expert Shane Read discusses how to create persuasive demonstrative exhibits and explores how Lloyd Bell’s masterful use of demonstratives helped lay the groundwork for a $26 million medical malpractice trial win.
The Bell Law Firm’s Lloyd Bell represented a Georgia woman who suffered catastrophic brain damage following a respiratory collapse at a hospital. Bell contended that the collapse was caused by the failure to properly treat a hematoma, or blood clot, that pressed on the woman’s trachea, ultimately cutting off her airway.
During openings of the 2017 trial, Bell used a variety of demonstratives, including both anatomical models and common household items, to walk jurors through the story of the case. At one point, Bell used a gift wrap tube to represent the woman’s trachea, and a red balloon to represent the hematoma, when explaining how the clot constricted the woman’s airway.
Those common items were more likely to resonate in jurors’ minds than anatomical models that jurors would likely be less familiar with. And Read says the objects allowed Bell to manipulate them, providing a kinetic visual that would be even more powerful in explaining the damage the hematoma caused over time.
“The fact that he could crush [the tube] and twist it and hold it up to a jury is something they will remember the rest of the trial,” Read says.
Bell also used common household items in explaining certain medical procedures. For example, a loaf of bread served as the model for explaining how a CT scan worked, by taking multiple “slices” of images.
Read says that demonstrative may be the best way he’s seen of explaining that imaging study to jurors. “If you compare an X-ray to one slice of bread, and a CT scan... to a loaf of bread with all of those additional images, it just makes a lasting impression on the jury,” Read says. “Lloyd Bell was thinking throughout his opening statement: How can I make this case come to life so it will be memorable?”
Those demonstratives set the stage for a $26 million verdict against the hospital whose doctor treated the woman.
And Read believes the key starting point for creating your own demonstratives is to consider the metaphor you wish to link in your case. “Think what a metaphor is that will explain your case to a jury, and then turn that metaphor into a visual aid, an object, a demonstrative exhibit, that will help you explain it.”
Read says that metaphor and its impact were summed up well by a quote from Joseph Campbell, a renowned writer on mythology: ‘If you want to change world… change the metaphor.’
That approach, Read explains, applies to courtrooms as well. “Think about metaphors,” Read says. “Turn them into demonstrative exhibits, and it will change the outcome of your trial.”
This is the latest in CVN’s ongoing series, Trial Technique Spotlight, with Shane Read. Read is a nationally recognized expert and award-winning author who has helped thousands of lawyers transform their deposition, trial, and oral advocacy skills through in-house training programs, one-on-one coaching, and keynote speeches. And in each episode of Trial Technique Spotlight, he uses CVN’s trial video to detail the techniques the nation’s top attorneys use, and how to best use them in your own cases.
You can watch every episode in this free, ongoing series on our YouTube channel.
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