Evaluating the impact of police body cam footage

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Jurors expect to see video at trial.

"Video surveillance is all around us. So, I think jurors are surprised if it's not there," John Wilinski said.

Wilinski is a jury consultant for "Litigation Insights" in Overland Park.

His firm works for attorneys across the country representing the prosecution and defense.

"A lot of the time, they'll hire us to find out if their arguments will go over well with jurors," Wilinski said.

For some of the consultants, that included looking at the impact of police body cam footage in a alleged police brutality case through a mock trial.

"All the jurors were emotionally affected by the footage, by the video they saw. But when they saw it several times, they were desensitized to it," Wilinkski said.

When it came time to deliberate, Wilinski says those jurors who saw the officer's body cam video several times were more logical, rational. That wasn't the case for the jurors who only viewed the video a few times.

"They took that emotional impact and took it with them into deliberations. So their discussions were much more impassioned. Their discussions were much more driven by emotion--the emotion they felt from the video," Wilinski said.

In this mock scenario, the amount of times a juror viewed the video, made a difference in the verdict.

"The jurors who only saw it a few times found in favor of the prosecution and convicted the police officers. Whereas the jurors who saw it several times, acquitted the police officers," Wilinski said.

But there could be another reason to release body camera footage as soon as an incident happens. Lawrence attorney Max Kautsch specializes in First Amendment rights and open government law.

"The sooner the video is released, the less of an impact it has on the court's need to change the venue," Kautsch said.

Meaning, the likelihood of a fair, local trial is greater.

Whenever it's released, we know there's one thing for certain with this powerful piece of evidence.

"An attorney is going to want to control that to the extent that they can," Wilinski said.

Wilinski says how you view the video makes a difference in your interpretation.

If you're watching it on an opinion website, or through social media... that can change how you would interpret the video... as opposed to seeing it for the first time at trial.

Wilinski says the first time a juror sees body cam video... it will have the greatest emotional impact.