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Making a case for Video Depositions

October 12, 2016
Making a case for Video Depositions

A video deposition is the digital recording of a witness’ testimony under oath. Video depositions are a valuable tool for reference when considering whether to use particular witnesses at trial and when preparing for the direct or cross-examination of those witnesses.

  1. Alleviates scheduling conflicts of key witnesses for the duration of the case
  2. Provides absent co-counsel and team members materials for preparation
  3. Clarifies verbal responses through recording of shrugs, nods & inflections

The popularity of YouTube, Vimeo, and similar video sites are the latest examples of the power of video to capture interest, entertain and influence opinions. This impact has not gone unnoticed by the legal profession, which has embraced the use of video depositions.

Why video a deposition?

Video along with the transcript is a far richer tool than a stenographic transcript alone. Video depositions are much more likely to keep a jury’s attention. Moreover, good printed testimony of a credible witness can become great testimony, when seen as a video.

An attorney may want to have video of a deposition to preserve the testimony in case the deponent dies, becomes too ill, flees or otherwise is unavailable to testify in court. The law in some jurisdictions allows for certain expert’s testimony to be presented by video, even if they are available to testify in court in person.

Also, video deposition testimony may be used to impeach a witness if they change their testimony at trial, and this is by far the most common use of deposition video in court. Seeing the witness make an unambiguously different statement on the video than what they said in court has a much greater impact than simply reading back transcript testimony.

One surprisingly common reason for hiring a videographer is for the calming effect it has on disruptive attorneys and litigants. People are on better behavior when a videographer is recording the event and this can mean the difference between a two-day and a one-day deposition.

Lastly, video can provide better insight into deposition testimony for expert consultants and legal staff reviewing it, as they prepare to go to trial.

We’re not saying that written transcripts are going away anytime soon. Court reporters and transcripts are a necessary piece of evidence, but the value of video should not be dismissed. Video testimony is simply more persuasive…to the judge, jury and other attorneys. From providing richer evidence, deeper insights and eliminating ambiguity, video is a useful tool.

Four reasons to schedule a video deposition

The witness will not be available for the trial

The impact of their testimony will be much greater if the jury, judge or other attorney(s) can watch the video with emotions and inflections rather than listening to the transcript read in monotone.

Impeaching a witness with a video clip

Video is much more powerful than reading testimony from a transcript. If the transcript is synced with the video, it is easy to locate relevant testimony quickly and create a video clip that can be used immediately.

Maintain Decorum

All parties involved in a deposition are less likely to act out as they know their words and actions could be displayed at a hearing or a trial. Answers will be more informative and complete. On occasion two cameras have been requested, one focused on the witness and the other on either opposing counsel or the exhibits. Generally there will be fewer objections and other interruptions if a deposition is preserved on video.

Richer reference material

Reviewing the video testimony by people on your team, whether lawyers or paralegals in your firm or your expert witnesses, is much more productive than just reviewing the transcript. They can evaluate the witness’s body language and temperament, helping you may decide whether reading from the transcript is preferable to showing the video.

Please check out this article from the ABA for more information: How attorneys use video depositions – Video Depositions: Essentials, Resources

Are you ready to add video to your toolset? Or just have a few questions? Learn more on our Video Deposition page or contact us.