Back around February 2015 Google did something really helpful that they didn’t have to do, they made the full desktop version of their Google Earth software available for free! This wasn’t just for educators it was a free download for anyone that wanted it. I was one of them.
When I first started out as a prosecutor handling misdemeanor cases we had a limited availability of support in terms of investigations and demonstrative production. We often had to visit crime scenes on our own or with another young attorney, take photos with an ancient camera checked out of our supply room and if we had a case that could make use of some overhead maps, well we weren’t going to be getting the Sheriff’s helicopter to do a flyover for our cases . . . ever. We would go to our veteran colleagues and see fantastic overhead photos taken from the helicopter and dream of having something like that to help with our cases.
Many of us turned to web based mapping sites to bridge that gap. The problems with these are obvious, it is not a close in time photo of the scene, it’s a map that shows the overall area and gives the trier of fact (usually a jury) a good sense of the locations involved in a case. I used these exhibits whenever they made sense, and I had to make them on my own. I used Google maps and Bing maps depending on my mood and what I needed. I always tried both to see what the same area looked like, you never know which you might like better.
One of the most interesting options for mapping demonstratives and exhibits is Google Earth Pro. It used to be prohibitively expensive at $399.00 but now with the GEPFREE promo code any lawyer or law student can download and install it for free. Google Earth Pro opens up a whole new realm of demonstrative and exhibit possibilities. With the Movie Maker and Path functions you can create virtual flyovers of locations and re-create the movement of key elements of any case.
Google Earth Pro also allows you to go back in time in some places. Take this example from the California coastline. *BONUS TIP* while using the path function to do a virtual flyover, you can cycle through the historical timeline to show the changes as you fly through the path!
Can you spot the difference in these two? Top is 2015, bottom is 2003 – notice the new home constructed on the ridgeline just right of center.
If that wasn’t dramatic enough take this example from Southern California wine country.
Man-made lake anyone? Top is from 1996, middle 2003, bottom 2014.
The ability to find useful aerial visuals that might be important to your cold case is a really useful feature. It might not always be there, but when it is it can present a dramatic portrayal of the surrounding area.
So how do you get Google Earth Pro for free? Easy, just go here and read the terms and use this promo code to download, it’s that easy!
With Google Earth Pro any litigator can create some pretty impressive virtual map flyovers that rival what some of the best litigation support animation software can do, and it’s free!