PRODUCTION OF MEDIA TEXTS IN THE LEGAL AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE PROFESSIONS

At a more specific level, lawyers and other justice professionals must increasingly produce media texts in their everyday professional practice.

Because of the severe legal consequences of producing a video or another media text in the legal field, the lead lawyer in charge of the trial has foil responsibility over the final product and thus assumes the role of director of the media text.

“I-the lawyer- direct [a videotaped deposition.]... I don't care if the videographer thinks it will look better with the camera in one place or another. I decide where it goes, and I will live with the results....

It’s the lawyer’s rear end that’s on the line. If my client wins, it’s my doing. If my client loses, it’s my doing. I'm the director, the producer ... I the god of the deposition.” (Paul Tauger, 2003).

It is perfectly acceptable for a lawyer to outsource the production of the video. However, he (sic) must take care to never abdicate his (sic) role as director. Only the lawyer knows what will persuade the judge. Thus, he (sic) must always retain control of the stoiy and its telling (Passon, 2010).

Media texts used in the legal and criminal justice professions include videotaped depositions, videotaped crime scenes, a day-in-the life videos, progressive videos, settlement brochures, living plaintiff documentaries, multimedia closing arguments, sentencing mitigation videos, visual petitions to administrative bodies, and clemency videos. Depositions are increasingly videotaped, particularly when the aim is to preserve testimony for trial.[1] Criminal justice professionals also routinely film, and take photographs of, crime scenes. They also film when investigating crimes in an undercover fashion. A day-in-the-life video is an audiovisual text aimed at accurately recording the injured party’s activities of daily living. This video focuses on a daily routine, which is then edited to a 10- to 30-min tape. For instance, a tort lawsuit may involve a plaintiff who now must live her life being blind, deaf, or with a severe muscular injury, or constantly under mental anguish as a result of a beating and rape followed by fire to the plaintiff’s house. The elements of pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of wages often are the most difficult aspects of a case for a jury to picture. Video is the most effective way to show pain and suffering or mental anguish. A day-in-the-life video can be shown in a torts lawsuit or as a part of a victim impact statement at sentencing hearings in criminal justice processes. The progressive video is a modified type of day-in-the-life videos that show the pain and suffering of the plaintiff or victim over an extended period of time. Settlement brochures are more elaborate videos showing interviews of plaintiff's family and friends affected by the harm caused to the plaintiff. They present a chronological narration of the life of the plaintiff before and after the tort. They are used as a settlement strategy. Living plaintiff documentaries are also used to induce settlements. The documentary shows interviews with family members, employers, and friends along with edited photos and home videos, depicting plaintiff’s life prior to the injury and the changes produced by the tort.

A multimedia closing argument is a closing argument made partially or entirely by means of photography, video, slides, drawings, and audio. It includes previously admitted evidence. And it aims to reconstruct the crime and the circumstances surrounding the crime. Its use has generated controversy and fascinating debates about its use in criminal trials.

Sentencing mitigation videos are audiovisual narratives of the defendant’s life story used in sentencing hearings in order to persuade a judge of the existence of mitigating factors. At sentencing hearings, prosecutors describe the worst aspects of the defendant’s life that led to the perpetration of the crime. A sentencing mitigation video contextualizes those aspects.

Tire best stories, including the best sentencing stories, involve the protagonist battling against, and ultimately defeating, the antagonist forces (Passon, 2010).

Visual petitions to administrative bodies and clemency videos are audiovisual stories used in order to request an action from an administrative agency. A clemency video is a request made to the state governor for the lessening of the penalty of the crime without forgiving the crime itself, which is used mainly in capital punishment cases.

Other media texts increasingly used in the legal and criminal justice professions are documentaries related to a crime, a legal cause, or even a case under investigation or before the courts. The work of documentary filmmakers resembles the work of both academic researchers and creative screenwriters. Documentary filmmakers investigate facts, people, and events much like a researcher does, but they tell the product of their research through a story that uses film techniques rather than academic writing conventions. Documentaries, including documentaries with a legal focus, have distinctive technical film conventions and narrative structures.

Documentaries generally rely on a distinctive use of voiceover, archival footage of real events, reconstructions, natural sound and lighting, interviews with experts, montage, and texts on the screen to convey authority and credibility to the story. Apart from documentaries made by filmmakers to narrate stories based on their personal interests, clients have been increasingly asking lawyers to help them make documentaries as a means to get their stories across to media, the general public, and relevant governmental authorities.

  • [1] Experts consider that presenting videotaped deposition testimony at trial is the most effective alternative, and preferred over reading transcripts to the jury. Paul Tauger, “The Ultimate Video Deposition Skinny” (2003) available online at: http:// dvinfo.net/articles/business/taugerl .php.
 
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