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- in Building the Persuasive Case
- by Stephen Gustitis
It’s the persuasive case that wins decisions from the jury. Since the jury decides whether the case is persuasive, it must be built from their point of view. The law furnishes the framework within which persuasion must take place including the charge elements, defenses, and evidence foundations. But the legal case must be distinguished from the persuasive case since jurors do not think like lawyers. For the most part they don’t engage in legal analysis because it’s meaningless to them. They are people oriented, rather than law oriented. They use their feelings and emotions to make decisions more often than logic. That’s why the story is such an effective way to communicate to the jury. Consequently, the Bryan-College Station criminal defense lawyer must build the persuasive case upon the basis of the jury’s belief system. Every case, every action the defense lawyer takes must be evaluated from the juror’s point of view and they must create the best story to present the client’s case.
The story is the device which best allows the jury to comprehend and retain the case. It’s the memory device for organizing, understanding, and retaining facts and ideas. It is also used by the jury to determine whether they will accept the case as plausible. The jury determines how plausible the case is by placing the story next to their own ideas about how the world works. Then they accept as plausible that which corresponds to their own ideas.
To be plausible it should have several characteristics in addition to being consistent with the juror’s experience. First the story should be organized around one theory of the case or interpretation of the facts. The story should be consistent within itself and with other facts which the jury will believe. The story should have completeness and context, as well.
The story must also be painted with imagery so the jury can visualize the event. This way the event becomes real to them. Additionally, the story should appeal to principles and values important to them. Values such as right over wrong, justice over injustice, truth over untruth should form the basis of the story. The story must also appeal to common sense and be such that the ending is fair and just only if a favorable verdict is awarded.
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and retired amateur bicycle racer.