Animation in the courtroom can be incredibly effective. However, it is beneficial to delineate the difference between “animation” and “simulation” when preparing to introduce the computer-generated graphic or video in court.
Under Federal law, an animation has an easier path to getting admitted to the trier-of-fact if the only purpose of the animation is to show a witness’s testimony, in the same way, a witness would be able to draw on paper in court.
Obviously, an effective computer-generated animation has a distinct advantage in impressing upon a jury over a witness drawing on paper in court. The concept remains the same. Because courts appreciate efficiency, it makes sense to have an animation to show an expert-witness theory rather than have that same witness take the time to draw it out.
Simulations differ from animations in that they assist the expert witness in forming his or her opinion. Animations explain an expert’s opinion while simulations assist in forming an expert’s opinion.
In Federal Court, the Daubert factors must be satisfied for a simulation to be admitted in court. In that landmark case, the Supreme Court interpreted FRE 702 and established four factors that a party must meet before any scientific evidence could be allowed in court. In particular, the Supreme Court pointed out that “the trial judge must ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence is not only relevant but reliable.” Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., (1993) 509 U.S. 579, 589.
Because the simulation is assisting the expert witness in forming their opinion, admittance of the simulation relies on the data used. The emphasis is on the relevance and reliability of the data. The trier-of-fact must know what data was used, how it was calculated, and if the data-collection method is accepted. Otherwise, the judge or jury could be significantly misled by the simulation and its impact on the expert witness’s opinion.