Reading or Playing Depositions

This month’s Brushstroke focuses on depositions. If you know you are going to have to play or read a depo, plan for it. Jurors hate long videos or readings and will hold it against you for making them suffer through it. Here are some steps to deal with that reality.

If you know it may be read at the time you are taking it, cut to the chase. Don’t ask a bunch of unnecessary questions. Plan ahead: Make sure you don’t leave out the key stuff, you won’t get to clean it up at trial. But don’t waste a minute of time: be crisp and surgical; map it out in advance.

If you had no idea it was going to be read and you have a bunch of stuff in it that turned out to be unimportant or less important, cut it all out when you do designations. If you think, “this might be nice to include, but not necessary,” then you don’t need it. Less is more.

When it comes time to read it, you read your part, then make the defense read their own questions. It will make it obvious who is wasting the jurors’ time. If it is a video, that part will take care of itself, but you still have things that need to be done.

In opening, explain what a deposition is, then tell the jury we will be playing (or reading) the deposition of Tom Jones. He cannot be here because —–. The reason we are playing it is he provides some important evidence. In particular, he says —–. I point that out because it is long: it is two hours! The rules do no allow us to just read the parts we think are important. The other side gets to put in the parts they want to be read. We don’t break it up into parts to be read at different times, we read it all at once. So we will be reading all two hours of it, but the part we want is only about 30 minutes. All the rest are parts the defense has designated to be read. Even though many of the questions they want to read to you were asked by us at the time of the deposition, they are not the parts we designated. We cut our part way down. Again, the parts that we want you to hear are that Mr. Jones says —–.

Then, when it comes time to read, try to get a ruling that you will just read your designations and force them to read the rest, even if it is your questions. If the judge won’t agree, at least slip something in like this when you get up to read it:

“Judge, this is the deposition of Tom Jones, the one we talked about in opening that is two hours long. We will be reading the 30 minutes we have designated, plus the hour and a half the defense wanted read. We we will be reading questions asked by us even if they are questions designated by the defenses. The deposition was taken on so-and-so date.”