A typical scenario: you’re a litigator or trial attorney preparing a case and you have a number of witnesses to depose, so you pick up the phone to call your trusty court reporter to arrange the depositions … but have you considered the advantages of using a videographer at the same time? There are many reasons to a video record a deposition:
1. If a key witness cannot attend a trial, a videotaped deposition can often be the next best thing. The judge and jury are not only able to listen to the witness (deponent), but also see the deponent at the same time. They can pick up on nonverbal communication that would often be critical on the stand: body language, hesitancy, vocal inflections, demeanor, volume, etc. None of these cues are available in a standard transcribed deposition.
2. Expert witnesses are often ideal candidates for video depositions. Because they are used to acting as experts, they generally know the right things to say, project an air of intelligence, are usually predictable, and are excellent at following lines of questioning. A good expert can convey an authority that surpasses the written transcript of a deposition.
3. Expert witnesses can be expensive to call to testify in person. A video recorded deposition is often the best alternative. It’s cheaper, and the power of the witness is preserved because the demeanor and speech of the subject is on full display for the jury.
4. Under the right circumstances, using a video deposition to present background and foundational testimony improves the flow of evidence, eliminates calling witnesses out of order, and improves clarity to the jury.
5. Video depositions are more “interesting” to jury members. Juries are used to watching TV (who isn’t?), therefore they pay great attention to TV. Oddly enough, sometimes seeing it “on TV” is more real than if the deponent were actually in the courtroom.
6. Video depositions can now be easily “synched” to CD or DVD and called up in the courtroom on the attorney’s computer. Because the testimony is digital, any moment of the deposition can be instantly accessed and projected in the courtroom, no need to fast-forward tediously through a VHS tape like in the old days. And if the witness contradicts himself in court, the original deposition can be easily retrieved and used to discredit the new testimony.
7. Sometimes a particularly incriminating video deposition can precipitate a settlement. If the witness is particularly hostile or rude or invokes Fifth Amendment rights over and over, the plaintiff’s attorney can be in an overwhelming position of strength and can negotiate a settlement before trial.
8. Studies show that jury members retain information up to six times longer when seeing witnesses and hearing them speak, rather than merely hearing a transcript read in court. As the expression goes, “Seeing is believing.”
9. The opposing attorney may use video in court, causing you to appear “out of date” and out of touch with current technology. To be competitive, you need to use an arsenal of modern weapons in the courtroom. With today’s technology, a video deposition is merely one of these advanced video weapons.
As you can see, a video deposition can be a powerful tool in the courtroom and offers many advantages to transcribed depositions. Consider booking a videographer at the same time you schedule your deposition. You just may be glad you did.