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Ridiculous PowerPoint presentations are overturning criminal convictions

Ridiculous PowerPoint presentations are overturning criminal convictions

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Prosecutors have a limited ability to use visuals while making their case in a trial, but apparently, some are starting to push it too far with the use of PowerPoint. In a report on the use of slideshows during trials, The Marshall Project points to a number of instances where prosecutors have been reprimanded or convictions have been overturned because of how PowerPoint was used. Basically, PowerPoint seems to be making it far too easy for prosecutors to make ridiculous and inappropriate slideshows — for instance, slathering the word "guilty" in big red letters over a defendant's head — thus improperly affecting the outcome of the trial.


Covering a defendant's head with the word "guilty" is a recurring issue, according to The Marshall Project. But prosecutors have tried all kinds of other effects, including putting the defendant's name or photo in a bullseye and even using sounds and flashing text. This has reportedly led to at least 10 instances over just the last two years of a criminal conviction being reversed because a prosecutor violated fair argument rules with a slideshow.

Slides from New Jersey v. Geraldo Rivera

There's nothing strictly new about what the prosecutors are getting into trouble over here — it's more that technology continues to enable flashier and more convincing presentations than many were previously capable of creating, making this an increasingly common problem. The Marshall Project reports that higher courts do seem to be taking issue with presentations like these when they come up, but that prosecutors will likely continue to push the limits of what they can do until the boundaries of PowerPoint presentations are clearer. Until then, you can enjoy some of the The National District Attorneys Association's examples of an appropriate slide, such as this one which doesn't recognize how Wheel of Fortune works:


An example pulled from a 2003 book published by the National District Attorneys Association

Slides presented in the case against Odies Delandus Walker

Slides used in the case against Edward Glasmann. Glasmann's conviction was later overturned because of the inappropriate nature of the slides.