Courtroom drama: Actors bring depositions to life

Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:50am EDT
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By Manuel Rueda

MIAMI (Reuters) - Florida attorney Marc Brumer's client broke his heel after falling from a pedestrian ramp. But by the time he took the construction company that built the ramp to trial, the only witness had moved out of the state.

Brumer had a solution: he hired a professional actor to read the absent witness's deposition to the court.

Reading the deposition word for word and replicating the witness's Hispanic accent, the actor described how the ramp was badly lit and had no warning signs for pedestrians.

"We were all floored," Brumer said of the performance. "It was like the witness was there." The building company settled.

A specialist in personal injury cases, Brumer is among a handful of lawyers in Florida who hire actors to read the statements of absentee witnesses. He also runs Actors at Law, a small company that finds actors for lawyers when their witnesses cannot make it to a trial.

"I'm all for using tools that will help the jury understand the evidence," Brumer said. "When you go to trial on a difficult case, you need every tool you can get to win."

Attorneys in the United States are allowed to read out depositions to juries when their witnesses cannot attend a trial. Witness testimony can also be videotaped.

But as long as it is made clear to the court the reader is not the actual witness, anyone can read the depositions.   Continued...