Demonstrative evidence in criminal cases can make or break the prosecution cases. Our ability as legal nurse consultants to think visually makes us invaluable to attorneys.
How do you use this skill with litigation?
Prepare Demonstrative Evidence with the End in Mind
The first step is to put yourself in the position of the juror. What do you want the juror to be able to see and understand as a result of your work?
As the attorney and you work on strategy, your thoughts begin to focus on how best to illustrate the evidence. Although you might have some graphic arts skills, working with a medical illustrator is usually the best solution. They are trained visual problem solvers.
Medical illustrators are professional artists who’ve gone through advanced education in life science and visual communication. Their goal is to transform complex medical information into visual images.
The medical illustrations can take the form of posters mounted on foam core board (old school and still effective), computer animations, colorized illustrations and more. One of their purposes is to illustrate normal anatomy, for example, in contrast to injuries and surgeries.
The LNC, attorney, and medical illustrator work together to support the expert testimony in criminal or civil cases.
What does the jury need to know in order to come to the verdict the attorney is looking for in this case and how do you assist in preparing demonstrative evidence to present it? Your role might be to work with the medical illustrator, to teach the attorney, or to teach the jury through a summary of the medical records.
What do you want the juror to be able to see and understand? Here is an example. In a spinal injury gunshot wound case, is it to:
- Understand the anatomy of the spine?
- Depict the path of the bullet?
- See how disruption of the spinal column affects sensation and motor function?
- Comprehend the symptoms the surviving victim had as a result of the paralysis?
- Understand the stages of spinal stabilization surgery?
- Comprehend the costs associated with care of a spinal cord injured victim?
Each of these questions requires a different approach
- You might use a 3-D model of the spine to teach the anatomy.
- You might work with the medical illustrator, x-rays and MRI scans to create an illustration of the trajectory of the bullet.
- To explain spinal function, you might work with the medical illustrator to show a motion graphic of how nerves travel within the spinal cord
- You could summarize symptoms of the victim by listing them in a table and placing the days, weeks or months across the top of the chart. Use a check mark to indicate when the symptoms was present.
- You might work with the medical illustrator to create a static image showing stages of spinal stabilization surgery.
- You might work with the life care planner to review the format of the planner’s report.
It is essential to be effective and efficient as you assist attorneys. Although many attorneys have learned pieces of medical concepts, they lack your knowledge about medicine. They appreciate gaining an understanding of the medical issues so they can make the most effective legal decisions and win their cases. Your role is to break down complex concepts into more understandable ones and create effective demonstrative evidence in criminal cases.
Your job in preparing demonstrative evidence in criminal cases is to focus on the desired result, whether it’s a plaintiff or defense verdict, depending on the client. Do it without spending more money than necessary to do the job. Your creativity can turn medical facts into clear demonstrative evidence.
Pat Iyer MSN RN LNCC has helped attorneys understand medical issues since 1987. She is president of The Pat Iyer Group.
Learn more about how you can assist attorneys with demonstrative evidence by attending our virtual conference, Path of the Bullet: A Guide to Criminal Cases. Attend live or order the recordings.