Demonstratives can be crucial to simplifying a complex case and pulling jurors into your trial narrative. During an in-depth interview with CVN, Lloyd Bell detailed his approach to demonstratives, including how a water balloon helped him tell the story of a hospital patient’s respiratory collapse and ultimately win a $26 million medical malpractice verdict.
Sandra Williams suffered catastrophic brain damage from respiratory failure caused by a hematoma, or blood clot, that formed in her neck days after a 2012 surgery. Bell, of the Bell Law Firm in Atlanta, claims the hospital’s doctor failed to properly treat the hematoma in time to prevent her collapse.
In walking jurors through the story of the case, Bell used a combination of anatomical models and common items jurors would be familiar with as demonstratives. A cardboard tube that you’d find in a paper towel roll represented Williams’s trachea, for example, while a red water balloon represented the clot.
“You have to decide what the jury needs,” Bell said, in explaining his choice of demonstratives. “The question I ask as the lawyer is, if I was sitting in the seat of that juror, what would I want? And I would want things to be kind of simplified…. Because if it’s confusing and muddied, then I’m not going to feel confident taking any action as a juror.”
The water balloon, Bell said, was a simple, striking visual that he could use in a variety of ways to support his story of the trial. In walking jurors through the timeline of the case, for example, Bell placed the balloon against his own neck when describing how the clot pressed on Williams’s trachea. And in showing jurors Williams’s X-rays, the balloon helped images of the real clot stand out.
“You can see the X-ray, you can see where the hematoma is in terms of the outline on the X-ray,” Bell said. “But it was helpful to then put the hematoma up on the X-ray, so that you can see, here’s the hematoma… this is what we’re talking about.”
Bell said his choice of color was also important. “A hematoma is not bright red,” Bell said. “But of course red is an aggressive color. It’s an attention-grabbing color, and it’s memorable.
“So, the use of color is very deliberate when I’m preparing demonstratives to help tease the story of the case.”
Bell’s thoughts on demonstratives in that blockbuster trial are just a small part of a wide-ranging interview with CVN conducted last year, where he discussed everything from his approach to examining expert witnesses to damage requests.
The full 45-minute interview is part of CVN Discovery, a free series that takes you beyond the courtroom, to discussions with the best attorneys across the country about the techniques that won their biggest trials.
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