Will Grisly Videos In Court Lead To Tougher Jury Verdicts?


Grisly videos increasingly are major features in court cases, says the New York Times. This week, a judge in a Massachusetts manslaughter trial said video of an 8-year-old boy accidentally shooting himself in the head with a submachine gun at a gun show could be shown to jurors. California jurors watched cellphone video of an Oakland transit police officer shooting an unarmed man on a subway platform. “There's no doubt (video) can be helpful,” said Jake Wark, a spokesman for District Attorney Daniel Conley in Boston, whose office prosecuted cases involving surveillance video of the shooting of a boy, 15, waiting for a school bus and a shooting in a convenience store.

It also leads to greater resistance from defense lawyers. “With every new type of evidence comes a new type of evidence-suppression motion,” Wark said. Being subjected to such images could make jury service a brutal experience. Last year, Las Vegas jurors wept as prosecutors played a 15-minute video of a man molesting a 2-year-old girl. “It's absolutely horrific, there's no other way to put it,” said a juror. Some jurors require counseling for post-traumatic stress after a particularly grueling trial, including some of those involved in the triple murder case in Cheshire, Ct. Video evidence can spark responses that surpass those of oral testimony and still images, said Clay Shirky, a new-media expert at New York University. “It seems like it's happening as you're watching,” he said. The widespread use of such powerful evidence, he predicted, could also shift the balance of justice. “My guess is that other things being equal, the availability of video evidence will lead juries to make harsher decisions,” he said.

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