As an Assistant United States Attorney in the general crimes unit of a metropolitan United States Attorney's Office, I regularly tried a variety of cases ranging from bank robberies and drug offenses to white collar crimes. Regardless of the type of crime, I frequently found various types of graphics useful in presenting the case. Examples included a chart providing a point by point comparison of modus operandi in two armed bank robberies and a map of the scene of a controlled purchase of cocaine showing the locations and movements of multiple defendants, an informant, and federal agents. Such graphics helped jurors understand the charges, the evidence, and the structure and theory of the prosecution's case.
Graphics have also proved useful in teaching Evidence. I think of them as blueprints that expose the underlying architecture of an evidence rule or doctrine, an architecture that may not be obvious from the text of a rule or a verbal description of a doctrine. Anyone who has assembled a piece of furniture or a child's toy using written instructions is likely to have experienced how confusing purely verbal directions can be at times and how a well conceived diagram can cut through confusion and clearly convey what is sometimes difficult to get across using words alone.
Many students find some of the structures and concepts of the law of evidence opaque when conveyed by words alone. The Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE) made the law of evidence more accessible. But the conciseness of those rules at times renders them difficult to penetrate, and their significance is often not readily apparent to those uninitiated in the history and intricacies of evidence law. Graphic techniques prompt students to analyze evidence rules to discover the basic concepts that drive those rules.
A number of pedagogical purposes propel my reliance on graphics: (1) reaching visual learners; (2) maintaining student interest and engagement; (3) promoting active learning; and (4) providing assessment to students.
Place of Original Publication
Saint Louis University Law Journal
50 Saint Louis University Law Journal 1175 (2006)
McMunigal, Kevin C., "Using Graphics to Teach Evidence" (2006). Faculty Publications. 126.