Balcony Fall

Balcony Fall
Posted by on August 17, 2015
Posted in: animation, construction, DetailViz, legal, projects

I’ve made a lot of graphics for use in court, but until recently I had never seen them in action. Last month, I traveled to Newport to provide trial support for a case involving a man who fell from a third-story balcony on a rainy, windy night. This was my first time in court, and I’ll admit to being a bit intimidated, considering my lack of knowledge for courtroom procedures. However, I was impressed with our client, Robert D. Lowry (defense attorney), and also John Myers (consulting engineer) who explained the concepts of kinetic force, moment, and gravity for the jury. It was a very clear and concise presentation, even better than any physics class I ever had. The jury seemed very engaged and seeing our graphics being used so effectively made me feel unexpectedly proud. The legal team’s strong performance was confirmed by the verdict: unanimous in favor of the defense.

Of course it took much more than great graphics to achieve this result. The seeds of success were planted six weeks before trial when Bob Lowry contacted us and we began a visual thinking process to study the case. At that time, the arguments were just developing and the experts were pulling together their independent findings. We created an accurate 3d model of the fall location based on photographs and measurements. Then we hosted a series of online meetings for Bob and his two expert witnesses. It was here that the rubber really hit the road: everyone was able to communicate concretely about the issues in the case and refine their collective understanding of what happened. Several revisions to the model were made. Detail was added to both the physical context and the positioning of the human figure. These adjustments were completed quickly, allowing time to carefully consider the look and feel of the final graphics, which included an animated fall sequence and a series of 3d diagrams printed on poster boards.

An animated sequence showing how the man fell off the balcony after dancing in the wind:

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Aerial view showing how the railing top piece came off after the man ran into it:
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Two different views of the man’s body position when he hit the ground:
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A diagram used to discuss momentum and center of gravity:
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When the time came for the experts to testify in court, they were not only familiar with the graphics, they had in fact had a hand in creating them. This allowed them to speak with authority regarding accuracy and authenticity of the exhibits and use them effectively during their testimony. The composite diagram at the top of this post was cited by jurors as having been particularly helpful in reaching a verdict.

On behalf of Fat Pencil Studio, congratulations to Bob on the great result. We were happy to be part of the team!

About Sebastian

Sebastian Marticorena was an illustrator at Fat Pencil Studio from 2014-2016. Read more