This reality was on cringeworthy display this morning at the George Zimmerman trial. While examining a remotely-located witness via Skype, a popular video calling service, one or both of the parties to that video call was Skype-bombed.
That is, as the witness testified, other Skype users, likely unknown to the witness or prosecutors, began trying to initiate a Skype call during the live testimony.
The result was a screen full of pop-up windows, an obviously annoyed judge and a healthy dose of embarrassment for all involved - all on live TV. You can see the screen shot above and the video below will show you how things head downhill starting at the 40-second mark.
When it comes to trial technology, if you are not planning for failure, you are absolutely planning to fail. This was certainly true in this instance, and the failure was foreseeable and easily preventable.
There are three prongs in our suite of services at A2L Consulting: trial/jury consulting, litigation graphics and courtroom technology support. In this third area of courtroom trial technology, we have to face the challenges of running a live and unpredictable production at trial all the time. The persons charged with making the lawyers look perfect are called trial technicians or hot-seaters.
Great trial techs spend as much time talking about what might go wrong as what we need to do to get it right. Among the safeguards we have in place is the fact that we generally never allow our trial laptops to be connected to the Internet. This way, we can keep a clean wall between the trial laptop and one that is used for Skype, Facebook, Outlook or other services that might interfere at trial.
Here, instead of using Skype, one could have easily used a closed and secure video conferencing system like GoToMeeting or WebEx. Then, pranksters would have not been tempted to search out the names of the prosecutor or witness to Skype-bomb them.
When you are the star of the show, you do not want your trial technology failure taking center stage. Rely on experts, practice, anticipate failure and you will be positioning yourself for success - or, perhaps more importantly, positioning yourself to avoid failure.
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