As an attorney, you understand your case forwards and backwards. But your audience, whether a judge or the jury, doesn’t know your case. This is the first time they’re hearing it from you, a complete stranger. They can’t see the big picture yet.
That’s why images and 3D animations play a key role in changing how the jury determines liability in civil cases — or a verdict in criminal cases. They absorb that big picture through the lens of a memorable visual, like evidence animation. Keep in mind that “evidence animation” in this context is typically referred to as demonstrative evidence, which is likely to be admissible in trial.
Demonstrative evidence can help close the knowledge gap for the judge or jury so that they fully understand what you already know about your case. To provide real-life context, we’ve highlighted nine high-profile cases in this article. Each one featured some type of evidence animation, illustrations, photos, or other supporting visuasl:
- Delta Flight 191
- Caitlyn Jenner Car Crash
- OJ Simpson Murder Trial
- Depp v. Heard
- Kyle Rittenhouse
- Jacob Blake
- Blake Leibel
- George Zimmerman v. Trayvon Martin
- Michael Serge
Some of the visuals below had powerful effects on the jury — after one animation was shown, the jury determined a favorable verdict after just two hours!
#1: Delta Flight 191
We start off with the tragic case involving Delta Flight 191. This case marked the first time aviation animation was used in court, and spurred the longest major aviation trial in U.S. history!
In 1985, Delta Flight 191 crashed into an airport in Texas. With over 137 fatalities and extensive property damage, a civil case was filed. To determine if the Federal Aviation Administration and National Weather Service were liable, one of the first aviation animations was created.
Evidence animation can have an over 20x return on investment — such as this accident reconstruction case where the defense counsel increased their offer by $550K, totalling $1M!
After reviewing the accident animation, the final verdict absolved the two litigants of all liability and negligence claims. If you are interested in seeing a modern plane crash animation, click the link to watch it on our YouTube channel.
#2: Caitlyn Jenner Car Crash
In 2015, Caitlyn Jenner rear-ended two cars, pushing one into oncoming traffic. This resulted in a serious car accident where several people were injured and one occupant lost their life. Our CEO, Brady Held, covers the crash and the resulting viral evidence animation in an episode of Fireside Forensics.
Watch the viral car crash animation used in the case above!
Three years later, Caitlyn Jenner appeared in a civil lawsuit with the family that suffered serious injuries in the crash and the case settled for an undisclosed amount.
#3: OJ Simpson Murder Trial
Visuals are helpful not only in civil cases; they are also powerful assets in criminal cases. In 1995, after the notorious OJ Simpson trial began, a computer animation was created to depict the two gruesome murders. While it was too late to admit the legal video as demonstrative evidence, the video left a memorable impact on viewers.
The jury determined that he was not guilty. Would the jury have decided a different fate if this trial animation had been shown in court? The world will never know.
Curious how much evidence animation or legal graphics cost? Download our free pricing guide to find out.
Prior to the OJ Simpson trial, a computer simulation had been used only once before in a criminal court, which was the Jim Mitchell Trial of 1992.
#4: Depp v. Heard
Recall the recent famous civil case involving Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. The high-profile status of the litigants and their demands were hard to miss in the legal world.
Using a trial graphics presentation to tell a case’s compelling narrative has become a modern attorney technique.
Besides the testimonies, the case had memorable visual evidence to present to the jury, such as photos and undisclosed videos. In the end, Depp was awarded $15 million for damages, while Heard received $2 million.
Would either side’s narrative have been as impactful without those visuals? It’s impossible to say, but it’s clear that jurors appreciate narrative visuals in court.
#5: Kyle Rittenhouse
Kyle Rittenhouse was standing trial with six criminal charges after fatally shooting two men and wounding another during civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin in August 2020. He was acquitted of all charges.
One shooting animation was created based on hours of footage analysis, site inspection data, and key witness testimony from that night. The FBI had even recorded an infrared video to capture the scene from 8,000 feet above.
The power of a site inspection is a key element of recreating these kinds of incidents. A site is usually inspected with a 3D laser scanner to ensure the visuals are highly realistic. Once the data is collected, it is merged with expert knowledge and a thorough understanding of the sequence of events. This process leads to a 99% admissible and accurate court animation.
#6: Jacob Blake
In 2020, the Blake v. Sheskey case gained national attention. It involved one police officer shooting Blake multiple times after engaging in a physical altercation. Our forensic animators created a legal animation recreating the entire incident, which was reported on by TMJ4 News.
Whether your case is civil or criminal, having an unbiased visual narrative is key to gaining a favorable outcome for your client. Images can show the environment, an unbiased perspective, or bring cold data to life for the jury. When a high-profile case includes blurry cell phone footage and countless witnesses testimony, an animation can provide a compelling and accurate understanding of the events.
#7: Blake Leibel
Some attorneys have gone so far as to utilize interactive maps, which were admitted as court exhibits in murder trials. An example of this is the lesser-known case involving the graphic novelist Blake Leibel, who was suspected of murdering his girlfriend.
Still from Courtroom Animation’s Interactive Map for the Leibel Case
The demonstrative evidence of the murder included gruesome images illustrating the attack, and testimony from forensic experts. Our team at Courtroom Animation used every data set and testimony available to create an admissible trial exhibit. It was an exhibit of the entire apartment that displayed each room and recreated the murder without bias.
In the end, Leibel was convicted of first-degree murder.
#8: George Zimmerman v. Trayvon Martin
In 2012, George Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder for shooting and killing Trayvon Martin in Zimmerman’s neighborhood. He pleaded not guilty and claimed self-defense.
This case featured a trial animation that depicted Martin punching Zimmerman as the struggle began. The judge had originally stated that the animation could not be introduced as evidence that could be reviewed during jury deliberations. However, the judge then determined that the defense counsel could leverage it during their closing arguments as a demonstrative exhibit.
The jury rendered a not guilty verdict.
#9: Michael Serge
While not as well-known as the above cases, it is still a historic case for the history of forensic animation in court.
Michael Serge is a retired police officer from Pennsylvania who claimed he was protecting himself when his wife attacked him with a knife, and that was why he shot her. But for the first time in a Pennsylvania criminal case, the prosecution showed the jury an animated re-creation of the crime.
“They watched my client execute his wife,” said Joe D’Andreas, Serge’s defense attorney. “When the animation ran for the few minutes that it ran, there was silence, absolute silence. It was eerie. You thought you saw a murder.”
In less than two hours, the jury determined that he was guilty of first-degree murder, and sentenced to life in prison.
Evidence Animation Can Influence Your Case’s Outcome
The impact of the visuals for these cases, whether shown in court or not, is undeniably powerful. Sight is our dominant sense and it is how we perceive the world around us.
How do you want the jury to perceive your case?
To help you answer that question, consider collaborating with an experienced forensic animation company. They can create visual litigation aids to elevate your argument. Even if your case is not as high-profile as the ones above, a trial exhibit can still help you land the most optimal settlement or verdict.
Get a free, instant quote from our forensic animators today, or download our eBook below to learn more about forensic animation.