What types of visual aids are used in the courtroom and  what is the benefit of using visual aids?

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Courtroom demonstratives, or visual aids, are objects used by defense and prosecuting attorneys to provide jurors with a clear and concrete view of what took place during the crime scene, or what evidence was collected. It also helps with the entire court process, which is often lengthy and full of verbiage. Hence, to avoid a potential "loss" of juror attention, attorneys convey their information into several types of visuals:

  • maps- to familiarize jurors with the location of the events
  • graphs- to comprise statistical data visually
  • pictures
  • sketches
  • samples of writings- of the accused, when admitted as evidence
  • videos
  • hierarchical chart- showing a chain of command or family tree
  • Venn diagrams- compare/contrast
  • timelines- sequentially telling the development of the case
  • flow chart- showing cause/effect
  • Frayer model- a chart showing what a word means, what it does not mean, what it looks like, and what it is used for
  • organigram- showing who is who within a company or organization, gang, or family.
  • Posters
  • mannequins
  • room simulators (a put-together setting to replicate the scene of the crime)
  • re-enactments
  • tape-recordings (when accepted as evidence)
  • footage from the investigation

The problem with courtroom visuals is that they can actually be distracting and take away a lot from the verbiage that the attorneys are desperately trying to persuade the jurors with. Moreover, if the visuals are irrelevant, badly produced, or too graphic, you may lose a juror's respect or attention and, as a result, your verdict may result in a hung jury.

Therefore, according to the College of Southern Idaho's Criminology Studies department, there are guidelines that must be followed when dealing with courtroom visuals. They must be

  • big- so that even the last person in the courtroom can see it.
  • simple- again, so that even the most simple-minded person in the jury can understand it.
  • appropriate- not disturbing, nor offensive
  • progressive- do not show everything in one shot, just disclose little by little
  • practiced- in order to make the most out of the visual it is imperative to go over it a lot so that even the most minute detail is worth showing.
  • reliable- not brought out for the sake of having something to show.