Guide To Legal Video - Chapter 5: The Procedures
The legal videographer is responsible for making certain announcements before, during, and after the deposition. Once everyone is ready to begin, the videographer presses record on both their camera and back up device. This is where the first announcement, known as the “read in” begins.
The read-in starts with the videographer announcing that “we are now on the record” The date, witness name, case name, case number, the court, location of the deposition, time on the monitor, and the videographer’s name follows. Next the videographer asks all parties present to identify themselves and state whom they represent. Finally, the videographer then asks the court reporter to swear in the witness.
The information needed for the “read in” will usually be provided to you on the “Notice of Deposition.” This is a legal document that is sent out to all parties involved, and contains all the relevant information that you need to know in regard to that day’s testimony. This is where you will find the court, case number, all of the parties involved in the lawsuit, as well as the witness’s name, the time and location of the deposition, and the names and addresses of all attorneys involved.
The notice of deposition is usually provided to you at the time of booking. However, if you are not provided with one before arriving at your location, the court reporter or any of the attorneys present should be able to provide you with one.
Once the deposition begins, keep a “medium-close” shot on the witness. Do not pan over to attorneys asking questions. You should also not zoom in and out during critical testimony. This can be considered a dramatization, and the video can then be ruled inadmissible in court.
Often an exhibit such as a model, chart or x-ray may be shown. It may be necessary to zoom in on a particular area of the exhibit to get a clear shot of what the witness is pointing to or demonstrating. Always check with the attorney beforehand to inquire about exhibits that may need to be shown on camera.
Depositions can last for several hours, and it’s easy to become bored during lengthy testimony. You should always pay attention!… and be ready to go off the record if a break is requested. When it’s time to take a break, make an announcement that you are going off the record and state the time on the monitor.
During long depositions it may be necessary for you to request a break to change tapes or other recording media. Never let your media run out during a deposition! If you need to request a break to change media, jot down a short note on a piece of paper informing the questioning attorney how much time you have left to record on your media. Be sure to quietly and discreetly hand the note to the attorney. Never interrupt witness testimony to request a break. Attorneys prefer to be notified that your media is about to run out about 5 to 10 minutes before it actually does. If you cannot pass a note to an attorney during questioning, you should wait for the witness to quit speaking and politely announce to counsel the remaining recording time. This works best for attorneys attending by video conference or phone.
After you’ve restarted your recording devices when returning from a break, you need to announce that you are back on the record and the time on the monitor. If your break was taken to change media, be sure to note that it was the end of the disc or tape before you go off the record and note again that you are starting a new tape or disc when returning back on the record.
When the attorneys have finished their cross examinations and the deposition is finished, make an announcement that this marks the end of the deposition. State the time on the monitor, the number of media used, and who the custodian of record is. The custodian of record is the person or company who is responsible for keeping the original recording on file. In most cases it is the videographer hired, but there are exceptions. For example, when a videographer is doing subcontract work for another legal video firm, the hiring video firm usually retains the originals and is the custodian of record. Most jurisdictions require the custodian of record to keep the video safe and available for 7 to 10 years.
During the deposition, some states require that the videographer keep a log of objections. Often an attorney may object to a question on various grounds. The witness still answers the question, but a judge rules later as to whether or not that question is admissible. Keeping a log of objections simply helps to locate the objection later in case that portion of testimony is ruled inadmissible. When an objection is noted, simply write down the time and nature of the objection.
The standard questioning procedure during a deposition is that the first attorney questions the witness. This is called direct questioning. When that attorney has gone through all of their questions, they then pass the witness to opposing counsel. This is called cross-examination. Once that attorney has finished, the original questioning attorney may have new questions based on the witness’s answers. This is called re-direct questioning. This process goes back and forth until both sides are satisfied with their questions and the witness’s answers.
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