Visual Aids Permitted In Trial Closing to "Assist the Jury"
Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the admissibility of non-exhibit visual aids during closing submissions in a Jury trial.
In the recent case (Walker v. Doe) the Plaintiff sued for damages following a motorcycle collision. During closing submissions the Plaintiff canvassed his claimed damages for wage loss and future care with the help of non-exhibit visual aids. In finding such aids were appropriate Mr. Justice Voith provided the following reasons:
 Counsel for the plaintiff proposes, in his closing submissions, to: (a) develop a bar graph or time line that explains the period of time that each of past wage loss, future wage loss, and the other heads of damage being claimed cover; and (b) visually depict how a future wage loss claim or future care claim should be calculated from the relevant tables that are found in the Civil Jury Instructions.
 In line with MacKenzie A.C.J.S.C.’s reasons in Basi, I have reviewed both Watt’s Manual of Criminal Jury Instructions and the CJC’s model jury instructions. Both seem to confirm that charts or summaries can be used during a closing to help illustrate or explain the evidence, even if they are not made exhibits at trial.
 The purport of the decisions in Bengert, Fimognairi and Basi, moreover, is that trial judges have a wide discretion to permit what aids to the jury they consider are helpful or appropriate.
 Support for this wider discretion is also found in Jones A. Olah, The Art and Science of Advocacy, loose leaf, (Toronto: Carswell, 1990). At 18.8, he writes, unfortunately with no citation other than to another secondary source that I was unable to access:
The use of demonstrative aids that are not part of the trial record, such as blackboards, charts, models, and summaries, is in the trial judge’s discretion. If the evidence provides reasonable foundation for these summaries or charts, then their use should be permitted.
 In this case, subject to the comments I am about to make, I am satisfied that counsel for the plaintiff can proceed as he wishes. The intended use of the “demonstrative aids” that he has described is modest, finite, and would assist the jury in understanding the issues that are before them. This is also consistent with the guidance provided in each of Bengert, Fimognairi and Basi. Still further, my instructions will contain a caution confirming that neither the time line nor the calculations constitute “evidence” before the jury.
I am advised this case is currently under appeal for unrelated reasons. If the BC Court of Appeal addresses this topic I will provide an updated post.
bc injury law, Mr. Justice Voith, Visual Aids, Walker v. Doe
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