1988 Wis. L. Rev. 293 (1988)
Speaker-Telephone Testimony in Civil Jury Trials: The Next Best Thing to Being There

handle is hein.journals/wlr1988 and id is 303 raw text is: COMMENTS
SPEAKER-TELEPHONE TESTIMONY
IN CIVIL JURY TRIALS: THE NEXT BEST THING
TO BEING THERE?
For some time now, telephones have allowed us to appear in places far from
where we are; we can call a loved one or business associate, and he or she will have
little trouble accepting the intrusion of technology into our relationship.
Trial courts, on the other hand, have until recently not been receptive to wit-
nesses' attempts to appear by telephone. However, this reluctance may soon be a
thing of the past. Within the last two years, Wisconsin appellate courts have twice
held that telephone testimony is admissible in many trials, and the supreme court has
adopted a series of rules governing telephone procedures at the trial and appellate
stages. This Comment examines these holdings and rules and, by identifying the
sound reasons for the courts' prior reluctance, suggests ways in which a trial judge
may test the propriety of telephone testimony in a given case.
I. INTRODUCTION
Jurors normally receive much of the information they use to decide
a case from witnesses who testify in the courtroom. The Framers of the
United States Constitution recognized the value of having witnesses ap-
pear in court and included in the sixth amendment a general require-
ment that prosecution witnesses testify in court.1 This method of com-
municating information to a jury has been the normal procedure in civil
trials as well. Occasionally, however, a litigant may offer the testimony
of a witness who, for one reason or another, cannot testify in court. A
telephone connected to a loudspeaker (a speaker-telephone) permits
counsel to examine and cross-examine an absent witness orally in the
presence of the jury. Unfortunately, because the witness is not present
in the courtroom, some information, such as visual evidence the witness
has to offer, or the visual cues which make up the witness' demeanor,
does not reach the jury.
Although a juror is somewhat less able to receive information from
a witness who testifies over a speaker-telephone, two recent Wisconsin
decisions and a series of new court rules permit telephone testimony
in civil trials so long as that procedure does not violate certain rights of
I. U.S. CONST. amend. VI ([i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the
right.., to be confronted with the witnesses against him). Courts have interpreted this provision
as not merely requiring the witness to testify in the accused's presence, but requiring that the
witness testify before the tribunal that is to decide the accused's case. See infra note 37 and accom-
panying text.

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