Depositions by Video Due to COVID-19
With health and safety precautions in place due to COVID-19, courts across the country have started to resume business face-to-face. Cases are starting to go to trial as huge sheets of plastic separate jury boxes, lawyer tables, judges, and stenographers. Testimony in deposition form, however, continues to be scheduled remotely via video conferencing.
What are the Drawbacks to Video Conference Depositions?
As expert witnesses, we have grown familiar with video conference depositions. Platforms such as Zoom and Cisco’s WebEx make virtual participation simple and easy. Yet many client attorneys have expressed concern about remote depositions, noting that this method inhibits them from seeing the witness in 3D. You only see what the camera sees.
Deposition by video also makes it more difficult to interpret body language and other nonverbal cues. And even though the witness is sworn in, Primeau Forensics has run across instances where we were able to scientifically prove that the witness lied under oath when the attorney’s had a limited line of sight.
A webcam’s field of view varies depending on the model. Most commonly, a webcam viewing angle lies between 50 and 90 degrees. These cameras have virtually no depth of field and certainly do not have peripheral vision like a human.
In a video conference deposition, attorneys are unable to see what lies next to or behind the computer screen. Items normally prohibited in a court of law may be present without the deposing attorney’s knowledge.
A few years ago, I had a case where a client-attorney whispered to their client throughout a remote deposition. We forensically enhanced the telephonic recording and could clearly hear the attorney whispering answers to the witness.
Case Study: Forensic Enhancement Disqualifies Witness in Video Conference Deposition
More recently, Primeau Forensics encountered a case in which we were able to prove the witness lied under oath. A law firm called to ask if we could forensically enhance a video deposition recording to see the reflections in the witness’s eyeglasses. When asked by the deposing attorney, the witness said they were not looking at anything, notes or otherwise. But in our forensically enhanced video work product, we were able to see the reflection of another computer screen that was changing as the deposition progressed.
We could see white pages with black text, some of those pages had color on them, others did not. The witness was advancing some type of document throughout the deposition. Once again, our client-attorney asked if the witness was looking at anything other than the camera. And for the second time, the witness tilted their head up and said they were not looking at anything, notes or otherwise. When their head returned to the resting position, we saw a desktop image reflected in their glasses. They had minimized their program to return to their home screen.
The court disqualified the witness in this case study. Not only did forensic video enhancement help our client-attorney uncover the truth, which is the goal behind each forensic investigation at Primeau Forensics, but it helped raise awareness for what drawbacks video conference depositions hold.
Navigate Remote Depositions with Primeau Forensics
Primeau Forensics offers forensic and litigation consulting services that can help you safely and correctly navigate your video conference depositions. With nearly four decades in business, our team has experience testifying in court and working with high-profile clients.
Contact us or call us at (800) 647-4281 to learn more about our expert support services.