By: Senior Associate John Stone
“Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records.” – William Arthur Ward
On May 18, 2020, Stewart Law Group Founding Partner Amy M. Stewart and Senior Associate John Stone made history, becoming one of the first trial attorneys to present a case to a jury over Zoom. Here is John’s perspective on the summary jury trial:
How did you prepare for the trial?
The main preparation for the trial went into creating the PowerPoint presentation. The Summary Jury Trial process allows for 1.5 hours of evidence presentation without objection from opposing counsel. This meant we had to make difficult decisions on the usage of expert testimony, witness testimony, and impeachment evidence. Primarily, you have to decide whether to withhold arguments for trial or use them for the summary trial.
What are the key differences between online proceedings and in-person?
The biggest difference is the lack of ability to “view the room,” and examine the jury, attorneys, and judge while testimony is going forward. Additionally, jurors seemed more willing to interact and speak with the attorneys during voir dire, since they were in their comfort zone at home. Online also brings an added difficulty for witness examination, due to slight lagging in technology.
Were there any challenges? Technology-wise or trial-wise?
The main challenge was dealing with all of the moving pieces. A technology coordinator or operator, with a strong knowledge of the system, is necessary to handle break out rooms for jurors and the behind-the-scenes moving pieces. The presiding Judge cannot do it all themselves.
Where is the future of trial courts heading?
I think Zoom trials will become an option in certain jurisdictions that feel technically able to handle the process, but I think the majority of courts will be hesitant to implement Zoom trials. There is a concern in the court systems that Zoom jury panels do not provide a complete jury pool of the specific venue since the only jurors that can participate have to have access to strong wifi or unlimited data plans. This leaves out a large portion of potential jurors.
“Summary Trial allows for a great view of the jury pool in your jurisdiction.”
Practice. Practice. Practice.
- Evidence presentation and witness examination need to be much tighter and uniform in a Zoom trial.
- Ensure that the pictures aren’t blurry and that videos work through the Zoom system.
- With witnesses, there is less room for ad-libbing due to the zoom structure. So a stronger “script” or a specific line of questions is helpful.
Huddle with Stewart Law Group to discuss in further detail how we can assist on COVID-19 and Zoom related issues. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.