Defined: “the display of a sequence of computer-generated images.”
The attraction of this form of evidence is irresistible, because:
- [W]hen there is no movie or video of the event being litigated, a computer animation is a superior method of communicating the relevant information to the trier of fact. Absent a movie or video, the proponent might have to rely on static charts or oral testimony to convey a large amount of complex information to the trier of fact.
- When the proponent relies solely on oral expert testimony, the details may be presented one at a time; but an animation can piece all the details together for the jury. A computer animation in effect condenses the information into a single evidentiary package.
- In part due to television, the typical American is a primarily visual learner; and for that reason, in the short term, many jurors find the animation more understandable than charts or oral testimony. Use of an animation can also significantly increase long-term juror retention of the information.
The distinction between animation and simulation has been explained usefully as follows:
- Computer generated evidence is an increasingly common form of demonstrative evidence. If the purpose of the computer evidence is to illustrate and explain a witness’s testimony, courts usually refer to the evidence as an animation. In contrast, a simulation is based on scientific or physical principles and data entered into a computer, which is programmed to analyze the data and draw a conclusion from it, and courts generally require proof to show the validity of the science before the simulation evidence is admitted
- Thus, the classification of a computer-generated exhibit as a simulation or an animation also affects the evidentiary foundation required for its admission.
Courts generally have allowed the admission of computer animations if authenticated by testimony of a witness with personal knowledge of the content of the animation, upon a showing that it fairly and adequately portrays the facts and that it will help to illustrate the testimony given in the case. This usually is the sponsoring witness.
Computer simulations are treated as a form of scientific evidence, offered for a substantive, rather than demonstrative purpose.
The case most often cited with regard to the foundational requirements needed to authenticate a computer simulation is Commercial Union v. Boston Edison, where the court stated:
The function of computer programs like TRACE ‘is to perform rapidly and accurately an extensive series of computations not readily accomplished without use of a computer.’ We permit experts to base their testimony on calculations performed by hand. There is no reason to prevent them from performing the same calculations, with far greater rapidity and accuracy, on a computer. Therefore … we treat computer-generated models or simulations like other scientific tests, and condition admissibility on a sufficient showing that:
- the computer is functioning properly;
- the input and underlying equations are sufficiently complete and accurate (and disclosed to the opposing party, so that they may challenge them); and
- the program is generally accepted by the appropriate community of scientists.
Lorraine v. Markel Amer. Ins. Co., 241 F.R.D. 534 (D. Md. 2007).