A jury’s job throughout a trial is to comprehend, understand and process all of the information conveyed by both the attorneys and witnesses. Plainly hearing this information without any form of aids (e.g., picture, graphs, physical objects, etc.) can lead to forgetfulness when it comes time for deliberations. That is why it has been common practice in the trial world to use evidence to help these juries pair aids with facts throughout a trial. Lawyers are afforded the ability to use demonstrative and substantive evidence throughout the presentation of their case: both to simplify information and make it more memorable. Demonstrative evidence is used to give the jury a chance to experience the issues and facts of a case in the eyes of the presenting party. The main purpose of demonstrative evidence is to make the jury believe that your theory of the case is the one that should prevail.
What is Demonstrative Evidence?
There are three general categories of evidence recognized in trial practice: real, testimonial and demonstrative. For the purposes of this article, demonstrative and real evidence are the focus. Real evidence is considered evidence that was actually involved in the case at trial. For example, the gun that was used to commit an alleged murder, or the defective part of a product being questioned in a liability case would be considered substantive evidence. Demonstrative evidence on the other hand, is used purely to enhance oral testimony. Unlike real evidence, this type of evidence has no independent probative value because it had no part in the actual events of the case. Demonstrative evidence is solely used to help the jury understand one’s theory of the case at hand. Distinctive from substantive evidence, this type of evidence can be anything you can touch, see or hear as long as it was created for the purposes of litigation. For example, the gun that was used to commit an alleged murder, mentioned above is substantive evidence, but a computer generated image of that gun or an exact replica of that gun, used for the purpose of making the jury better understand is demonstrative. The most important distinction between real and demonstrative evidence is that real evidence can be taken into the jury room during their deliberations, while demonstrative evidence most certainly cannot. The only relevance demonstrative evidence has to a case is to help explain the facts, and to help give a witness’s testimony greater probative value. This kind of evidence does not have any independent relevance outside of that.
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