Exhibit boards are a tried and true method of trial advocacy and offer many distinct advantages over other types of visual displays:
- Contemporaneously created “flip chart” exhibits created by attorneys or witnesses during trial can be too small to be read at a distance. Mistakes can be made during the heat of trial which can damage credibility and create confusion in the juror’s minds. Additionally, charts that are colorful and well designed have significantly more impact than hand-drawn exhibits.
- Exhibit boards are multi-functional; they can be used in opening statements, direct examination, cross examination and closing arguments.
- As compared to electronic exhibits, which, of course, do have their place, exhibit boards can be left up and become a fixture during the trial.
- For opening statements, exhibit boards are ideal. They command the attention of the jury, aid significantly in juror comprehension, and provide a focal point for juror attention.
- As giant “cue cards,”, an attorney can simply put the exhibit board on an easel and give the opening in a natural voice without having to refer to notes. In cases where the judge allows speaking “off podium,”, this also allows the trial attorney the advantage of being able to stand in front of the jury where a personal connection can be made.
- When used in conjunction with electronically displayed evidence, an exhibit board creates multiple focal points for the jurors. For instance, with a witness on the stand, the jurors are forced to look at the witness, the electronic evidence which the exhibit board summarizes and the board itself. This creates a “head swivel effect” which also helps keep the jurors alert.
- Lastly, demonstrative exhibit boards, as “summaries of voluminous facts” can sometimes be admitted into evidence. Over my many years of practice, I have often known juries send a note to the judge requesting that they be able to use charts, especially chronologies, during deliberation. While most of the time, these requests are denied, these requests do demonstrate how important effective boards can be on juror perception and decision making. And on the occasion when a judge allows a board to go back into the jury room, you have the jury focused on your interpretation and organization of key case evidence.
Plaintiff Personal Injury Diagram:
This chart was used by a plaintiff attorney in an injury case involving a fall from a scaffold that was improperly assembled.
Plaintiff Medical Malpractice Diagram:
In this medical malpractice case, the plaintiff had gone to his regular physician complaining of testicular pain. The physician erroneously attributed the pain to a vasectomy which had been done six months earlier and made no referral to a specialist, nor schedule any follow up. This chart was used to show the contrast between the outcome with a proper diagnosis and the actual outcome once the cancer metastasized.