Forensic Animation

Often, in court cases involving vehicular accidents or conflicting versions of events, forensic animations become necessary in order to allow the jury to more fully understand the issue to be resolved. These audio-visual presentations are based on forensic evidence and are used to aid in investigations of crimes, accidents, and various other events that must be evaluated by law enforcement officials. They are presented to the judge and jury in order to supplement evidence and testimonies of the event and to clarify points made previously so that the court may reach a verdict completely free of bias.

Forensic animations are required to reflect statements made in testimonies, as well as material evidence from the scene. An animation will only be admitted as testimony if it is understood to be a picture of one version of events, rather than proof of what actually happened, and does not contradict any other physical evidence. It is also recommended that, in order to prevent bias, the animation be as neutral an image as possible. For example, it is better to show “stick figures” recreating movements, which avoids bias, rather than a realistic depiction of a dramatic scenario, which appeals to the jury’s emotions.

When these parameters are not met, the validity of the animation is called into question, and its objectivity is scrutinized. Validating a subjective animation is counterproductive, since it reinforces the views of one side over the other, rather than supplying an unbiased image of prior evidence. It is almost impossible to get this kind of animation submitted as evidence, as it would tend to be more of a distraction than an aid to the jury.

However, when utilized properly, a forensic animation can provide the jury with an image that connects all of the various pieces of evidence, calculations, and testimonies into a solid conclusion. The animation translates the language of engineers, doctors, and detectives into an image that can easily be understood by the average juror. It also facilitates the jury’s understanding of the order of events, the perspective of those involved, and the severity of the event.

Breaux, Steven P. "A Primer on Forensic Education." Oct 2001. http://www.wsba.org/media/publications/barnews/archives/2001/oct-01-primer.htm (accessed April 22, 2010).

Kohn, David. "Investigators: Forensic Animation." July 25, 2003. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/10/25/48hours/main526999.shtml (accessed April 23, 2010).