The Power of Presentation
Article by Sean Murphy, Consultant and Director at Evidential Ltd
About Sean Murphy
Educated to degree level in graphic design, Sean started his career working at the Imaging Unit of Greater Manchester Police as an Imaging Analyst.
Some of the high-profile work Sean worked on included million-pound drug operations, football hooligan violence and many different murder cases. Sean also worked on the in-quest into the deaths caused by Dr. Harold Shipman.
Sean then went onto working for the forensics company, Network Forensics (part of Control Risks Group), based in London as a Video Consultant. Later going on to found SRi Forensics in Manchester, specialising in imagery Analysis and evidential presentation.
In January 2014, Sean founded Evidential Ltd. based in Manchester.
Evidential is an essential resource by evidence presentation and analysis and continues to provide expertise on high profile cases such as the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, International Criminal Trial of President Kenyatta, the trial of Nigel Evans MP and the football match fixing allegations being investigated by the National Crime Agency.
Sean is listed with the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency as a recognised expert witness in the field of image analysis and is a founder member of the Forensic Imagery Analysis Group (FIAG) and the International Consortium for Multimedia Forensics(IC4MF).
The Power of Presentation
More and more nowadays I find my role in a trial is being less and less about attempting to enhance a piece of CCTV or an important document, but it is instead showing this important piece of evidence in its best possible light. Giving that piece of evidence relevance and a starring role in the story of the case is the key to what I do.
For over 20 years I have been providing expert testimony in a wide range of cases from the Bloody Sunday Inquiry to the Poly Peck Fraud Case and more recently the Hillsborough trial. I have been fortunate to assist on some of the UK’s highest profile cases and I have also worked on a number of prestigious United Nations investigations too. There is a significant trend in the instructions we are being given though and that’s to make the evidence more “jury friendly”. Don’t get me wrong, we still get asked the regular calls to enhance some audio or clean up some video but it’s now all about getting the message across in a professional manner in order to present the case properly.
In today’s technology driven world the amount of digital material in a case can be overwhelming. The power of that evidence is crucial to the case, but it can be a minefield to navigate and get the best out of. We’ve seen many cases fail to get the attention of the courtroom due to assumptions being made of the audience and their level of understanding. Our job is to bridge that gap. We assist by simplifying complex evidence and aim to make your job easier.
This practice is well known in America where litigants bring in trials consultants who specialise in getting the message across. Nothing is left to chance in large law suits across the Pond and every advantage is maximised to its potential and it’s a lesson we can perhaps learn. It isn’t safe to assume that the evidence you know inside out will be portrayed with such in-depth understanding in the courtroom. Spicing up the presentation with trial graphics and presentations definitely helps especially in cases tried in front of jurors who expect to be “entertained”. We have a variety of TV programmes to blame for making trials appearing to be infinitely exciting whilst reality doesn’t live up to this reputation, but it can.
Clear presentation of material is no longer just being consider in the Final Act of the courtroom theatre neither with many seeing the benefits of having electronic case bundles prior to trial also. Gone are the days of sifting through paperwork when full bundles can be scanned and delivered in a powerful e-bundle. An approach like this can help enormously when preparing cases, searching for material and distributing copies to associates.
I was recently asked to assist with a renowned Barrister case opening whose eyes were opened to the power of presentation that my experience brought. This forward-thinking advocate realised his case was complex and was concerned that this would lose his audience in this very important matter.
Studies show the average attention span is just 14 minutes! At this point the mind wanders and unless you introduce something visual you will lose their interest and might as well be speaking a foreign language.
Studies also show that there is also a huge difference between visual learning and verbal learning. The chasm in various education levels is bridged when demonstrating evidence visually with the old adage “a picture paints a thousand words” being truer more than ever in a courtroom.
Enhancing the story by adding a subtitled 999 call or highlighting a key invoice keep them involved and they will appreciate this effort too when compared with your adversary who expects them to listen to their voices for hours on end instead. New technology can also play a big part and we have heavily invested in the use of virtual reality as a tool to immerse someone back into a scene in order to demonstrate the part they played. How vital could that advantage be when representing your client?
Evidential is one of the UK’s leading providers of expert witness services, supporting clients including Police Forces, Intelligence/Security industries, Barristers/Solicitors Practices and other experts. Through our in-house team of experts and extensive associate expert networks we aim to offer a ‘one stop shop’ supporting all of your expert witness needs. As a contact of Bermans we would be happy to offer a FREE assessment of where we can assist with any case.