|Ivory Webb was found not guilty on all counts after less than 2 hours of jury deliberation. Notowitz Productions in Los Angeles provided video expert forensic video enhancement and analysis and audio cleaning, and consulted as an expert witness for the defense.|
|The below 10 Tips To Prevent Crucial Mistakes is an excellent resource for attorneys, insurance investigators, and police detectives that utilyze video enhancement and forensic video analysis, including FBI investigators, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, and any police officer or private citizen needing advice about researching, recovering, analyzing, or cross examining the use of video evidence in court.
Video evidence used in courts most commonly consists of security camera video or cellphone video clips, but occasionally is video captured on professional news video cameras. More and more we are also seeing video evidence recorded on police body cameras.
|Legal video analysis, forensic research, and enhancement by Notowitz Video Productions played a key role in the jury decision in this trial, according to 3 jurors interviewed post-trial.
Above, Deputy Ivory Webb is congratulated by lead defense attorney Michael Schwartz after not guilty verdict. See the breaking news footage from Fox News in Los Angeles.
|VIDEO EVIDENCE IN COURT: 10 Tips To Prevent Crucial Mistakes
Below are ten tips gathered over the years that might make you a hero, or just save you from making mistakes with video evidence. Be ready!
• Search early for security cameras that might have recorded the crime. Cameras are EVERYWHERE now. Home security cameras are even shooting the exteriors of private residences, so don’t discount the possibility of finding a neighbor who had his security camera recording the sidewalk during a crime.
Problem: These private cameras, and even workplace cameras, don’t save video on their hard drives for very long. Sometimes as long as a month will be saved, but usually home surveillance video is saved only a few days! Do this investigative work early and it will benefit you in court.
• Dark footage may contain valuable details. Dark footage may be easier to enhance than getting the details from something that is over exposed and too bright. You may think a video is too dark and there is no detail there, when in fact the image can be brightened. Collect and save all footage, no matter how unclear and unintelligible it may seem to you.
• Give video experts sufficient time and resources to do their job. Video enhancement and analysis is an art. I’ve found that the more I work on a specific case, and the more I view footage, the more ways I devise of enhancing and analyzing footage to help my clients.
• Contact a forensic video expert immediately. Once you find that a security camera system may have captured evidence, you want to preserve the highest video resolution possible. Most optimally you want to capture a video signal directly from the computer’s hard drive, but the closer you can get to the original, the better I can do my job.
• Confiscate the camera and the digital video recorder (DVR) that actually recorded the event. If possible, mark as evidence and bring to your station the camera that recorded the signal, whether it was a camera phone, a home camcorder, or a security camera. To prove certain evidence in court you want to maintain the option to exactly recreate the scene of the crime and to record it with the original camera.
• Make an active decision to determine how many times to show the video to a jury. Sometimes a piece of footage is very shocking to a jury at first viewing, but showing that footage too much weakens their reaction. If you want to maximize the impact and emotional power of your video evidence, be aware that the opposing side may WANT to show the footage often, and will attempt to use any possible opportunity to play the video again, in order to intellectualize, compartmentalize, and remove compassion from the jury’s analysis.
• Never assume that because in the past video enhancement could not be done, that it cannot be done today. As tech improves, there are more advanced methods available to enhance material. This proved true in the Ivory Webb case. If I had gotten the Ivory Webb case a year earlier, the audio would not have been filtered as well because a new version of the software came out that provided a better audio filtering tool.
• Involve your legal video expert in the setup and operation of equipment both before and during the court case. In the days and weeks before court presentations, test all video connections and equipment. When your presentation is smooth, it keeps you on the good side of the judge and builds trust with the jury. Numerous times I’ve been told by the opposing side, “You can plug right onto our systems.” But when I politely insisted on testing their setup a week or day prior, something wasn’t working.
• The importance of the video expert in court during trial cannot be understated. Have your video expert physically at the trial every day. He can not only solve technical glitches immediately, but it will free up the lawyer to focus on the details of the case instead of fumbling with computers. Allow your video expert to be a partner in your success. I’ve seen in court opposing lawyers fumbling with technology and losing a key moment to make an affective argument. Don’t let this happen to you.
• Maintain trust of the jury by hiring an experienced and trustworthy video expert. Juries are acutely aware of the ease at which images and video can be manipulated. They have media exposure to nutty conspiracy theories, and they have watched too many bad TV shows about cops. The right video expert can put their apprehensions to rest by relating the chain of evidence, clearly explaining his role in the video and audio enhancement, and allowing the jury to focus on the evidence and make an intelligent decision.
Sometimes your evidence may only be as good as your expert’s reputation for careful diligence and honesty.
David Notowitz operates a full service video production company, providing all levels of consulting and video production, from court recreations to commercials, and from streaming live video on the internet to forensic video and audio enhancement and analysis of evidence for use in court. He also teaches attorneys MCLE classes approved by the California Bar.
You may reach David Notowitz at Notowitz.com or 310-203-4721.
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