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Lessons From Zimmerman's Trial For the Rest of Us

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By Betty Wang, JD on July 03, 2013 1:03 PM

Skype is good for many things, but, apparently as shown by the Zimmerman trial, it’s not so ideal for examining witnesses, reports the Daily Mail.

For those of us not living under a huge rock (though, with the holiday rapidly approaching, you can soon), the George Zimmerman murder trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin is well underway. Today, however, it was thrown into a bit of a mess when the defense was cross- examining Zimmerman’s former professor, Gordon Pleasants, via Skype. Apparently, a number of incoming call boxes were continuously popping up on the screen, covering up Pleasants’ face, and interrupting his testimony with disruptive pinging noises.

At one point, Pleasants' entire face was blocked by all the bombarding incoming call requests, likely from those who knew he was going to be on TV or were aware of his former connection to Zimmerman. The screen was not only projected to the courtroom, but was live on television as well, reports the Daily Mail. It became obviously too disruptive at that point, and the rest of his testimony was conducted via a phone call, instead. Can you imagine what kind of impression that made on the jury?

Pleasants is a professor at the Seminole State College of Florida where he taught Zimmerman in an online criminal investigations class where ZImmerman allegedly claimed he wanted to become a prosecutor.

There are some huge takeaways from this less-than-ideal situation here that can benefit you at your firm. First off, according to Deadspin, Pleasants apparently only worked a 15-minute drive away from the court where the trial was being conducted. If you have witnesses lined up for your case whom you know you want to testify, it is always the best to ensure that they are able to testify in person.

More understandable circumstances, such as being in a foreign country or away due to a medical emergency, of course would excuse the witness from needing to appear physically in the court. Otherwise, though, reasonable accommodations should be made for the witness to ensure that they show up in person.

Secondly, properly prepare your witnesses, folks. Nothing leads to a less impressive presentation to a jury than an unprepared witness. While we don't know more about Pleasants' actual testimony, the defense attorney could have ensured that if a testimony was going to be delivered via technology, that it would be free of distraction (check the chat settings, maximize your window, or don't post a Facebook status telling the world you'll be testifying in a high-profile murder case) and fully functional.

Lastly, let's not forget that with the perils come the many profits of technology. While using it in court as a device to communicate should be approached with caution, it does still make many work functions (and the trial process, sometimes) go a lot smoother. We all try to make technology our friend, but take those precautions to make sure it doesn't turn into your foe.

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