His only criticism, Volk said, was that the system enabled Noziska to "overemphasize issues I thought were non-issues," which were "magnified and enhanced. Because they were presented on a TV screen it held their attention. It made it look as if it had great weight because of the way it was presented. . . . The video technology grabs the jury."
The issue of fairness also came up in the San Diego trial. Superior Court Judge Kevin W. Midlam ordered Noziska to allow Volk to call up some images from Noziska's disc, and even allowed Volk to code some exhibits of his own onto the system.
By the end of the case, Midlam was impressed, saying the system shaved at least seven days off the length of the trial. If both sides in a similarly complex trial were to use it, he said in an interview, two-thirds of the trial time could be saved.
Normally when lawyers in a complicated civil case roll into court with 20 or 30 loose-leaf notebooks and boxes of exhibits, Midlam said, "the poor jurors break out into a cold sweat."
Some of the 1,400 documents were more than 20 years old, but they were enhanced on the disc, with relevant passages highlighted in boldface.
James R. Milliken, assistant presiding judge of San Diego County Superior Court, said the system effectively combined supermarket and compact disc technology.
Milliken agreed with Midlam that segments from taped depositions, called up during cross-examination of witnesses, can be particularly effective with jurors in impeaching testimony, providing not only contradictory statements but nuance and body language as well.
"It beats standing there reading a cold transcript," Midlam said.
When the attorneys using the system are properly prepared and properly organized, Milliken said, "the trial goes like a dream," potentially reducing trial time by as much as 20%. Even before a jury is selected, the judge said, evidentiary matters can be decided ahead of time, or, while the trial is in progress, with far fewer delays.
Barclay, who may be facing the laser disc system soon, is not taking any chances. Last week, he moderated a panel on the system, with a demonstration by the Cardomon Group, before lawyers and judges who belong to the local chapter of the national bar organization, Inns of Court.