The Indiana Court of Appeals recently overturned a jury verdict because the trial court did not provide the jury with the ability to examine digital evidence during its deliberations in Arlton v. Schraut, Cause No. 79A02-0906-CV-541. The court’s ruling is likely to be an important decision governing how digital evidence is to be made accessible to juries in the future.
Key exhibits at the trial were three CD-ROMs containing a series of digital photos, called angiograms, which showed the back of Arlton’s left eye before and after laser surgery on the retina. During testimony from various witnesses, both parties showed the jury enlarged images of the angiograms using the CD-ROM discs, a projector and a screen. But the trial court did not provide the CD-ROMs to the jury to examine during deliberations.
The Indiana Court of Appeals held that the jury should have been allowed to view the CD-ROM discs during deliberations:
“We do not presume to set forth one all-encompassing rule regarding providing the jury access to digital evidence. The solutions could be as simple as … transforming the evidence into a medium that is accessible without a computer. Or the court or parties could provide the jury with a ‘clean’ computer, i.e., one that contains no other information and which has no ability to access the Internet…. But whatever solution is agreed upon or decided upon is better than admitting digital evidence, and then giving the jurors no means of accessing it. Digital evidence should not be relegated to muteness.”