Why a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words


A picture is worth a thousand words.
Napoleon Bonaparte

One picture is worth 1,000 denials.
Ronald Reagan

Let’s face it, in the context of a trial pictures and other demonstrative evidence can have a very powerful impact on a jury. Back in the late 1800s and early 1900s, attorneys could give closing arguments that could go on for literally days. For the most part there was not whole a lot in the way of demonstrative evidence beyond some still photographs in black and white. The primary way jurors took in evidence was through oral testimony and argument. Trials were drama plays attended by members of the public… reality T.V. for a bygone era. Politicians likewise would go stumping in person from town to town or connect with the electorate through the printed media.

Today the pace of life gets faster and faster. We are called upon to take in a wide variety of information and even have to multitask which is not my forte. Courts are crowded and judges are always wanting to “move things along.” Closing arguments that took hours now are limited to a matter of minutes. As a result, you need to package your message to fit in the time allotted. One way to do this is to rely on visual aids. Today a significant number of people learn primary through their sense of vision. We are use to receiving our news through the evening anchor both verbally and visually. Pictures and videos tend to be more objective and interesting to jurors than simply verbal information alone.

In describing how a collision occurred or what a document stated, it is important to involve as many of the juror’s senses as possible if you want them to remember and be convinced of your position. Pictures cannot lie (absent being doctored) or be bribed, and they don’t forget. Don’t be afraid to use video depositions, photographic blowups, power point presentations or large blown-up transcript pages with excerpts from key testimony.

Also, don’t forget to paint vivid pictures with your choice of words and descriptions, as well as through analogies and story telling. If you do so, your case just might just end up picture perfect for the jury.

About Richard A. Cook

Richard Cook graduated from Purdue University in the Economics Honor Program in 1979 and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1982. Following law school, Richard served as a federal law clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. In 1984, Richard began working as Deputy Prosecutor for the Lake County Prosecutor's Office and from there, served as Assistant U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, South Bend Division. There he handled a number of complex criminal matters and jury trials. While there, Richard received the Chief Postal Inspector's Special Award and a letter of commendation from the U.S. Attorney General for his work prosecuting a major money order fraud scheme being perpetrated out of the Indiana State Prison system. Since leaving the U.S. Attorney's office in 1989, Richard has focused primarily on civil work and is currently a member of the firm Yosha Cook & Tisch in Indianapolis. Richard is also a member of the ITLA, IBA and the ABA, as well as, a fellow for the American College of Trial Lawyers. He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

Posted on October 9, 2013, in closing arguments, Evidence, Trial Advocacy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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