Jun 06, 2020 Captivating the jury- Fairfax criminal lawyer on persuading jurors
Captivating jurors in a persuasive way can make all the difference on the road to victory, says Fairfax criminal defense lawyer
Captivating jurors in a persuasive, real, and in the moment manner can help them forget any negative preconceived notions about criminal defense lawyers, and lead the jury to focus on the lawyer’s words and word images instead. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I know the true power of this approach.
Captivating the jury starts with liking the jurors as they are, having compassion for them, and taking care of them
Jurors are in many ways captives in a jury box. They must stay there and pay attention unless and until permitted restroom and smoke breaks, lunch breaks, and end-of-day breaks. They are paid a pittance for this, usually much less than they earn at work. Many have family members they care for who must be cared for by others while they serve on the jury. Just as everyone wants to feel appreciated and receive considerate behavior from others, so do jurors, and all the more so because of their captivity. A captivating criminal defense lawyer helps disintegrate that feeling of captivity by liking or loving them for who they are — even if their jury selection/ voir dire answers indicate they might be tough to persuade — giving the jurors reasonable trust, showing them mine so they show each other theirs in the jury deliberation room, providing a persuasively entertaining story throughout the trial, and even providing some appropriate humor or at least light moments.
Enchanting jurors while empowering them to break free of attachment to law-and-order views in order to rule in favor of the criminal defendants
Criminal defense lawyer and now-communications professor SunWolf taught me early on about captivating and persuading a jury through enchantment. SunWolf recognizes that her jurors are not all a bunch of woolly-headed liberals chomping at the bit to acquit her client, but instead have natural human feelings and concerns about feeling safe and having people obey reasonable laws. Of course, if jurors want people to obey reasonable rules, they can also be compelled against shoddy police work; police lying to and threatening arrestees to get a confession; police who are less then forthcoming on the witness stand; and prosecutions that seem to waste our tax dollars.
SunWolf is a captivating storyteller, and she weaves her persuasive storytelling throughout the trial, starting with opening statement, continuing right into cross examination and direct examination, and finally into closing argument. She is a ball of positive energy, not cursing the darkness but instead lighting a candle not only to disinfect the darkness, but also to invite the jury to come along with her on this path of light for the criminal defendant’s good.
Loving one’s client while persuading the jury, and conveying to the jurors the strong feelings of the moment
If a lawyer does not love his or her client, who will? South Carolina lawyer John Delgado taught me early on about loving our clients, warts and all. whether charged with a minor crime, more serious crime, or even murder, and even if it seems clear that our presumed-innocent defendant actually committed the alleged crime. John is the definition of captivating jurors.
At the 1994 Trial Practice Institute of the National Criminal Defense College, John was masterfully captivating in direct-examining his fictitious client who had confessed to a murder not because he had actually committed a murder, but because his love life had collapsed and he had given up on life, and because he was surrounded by intimidating police in a small room when he gave his false confession.
John started his captivating direct examination of his client with the question that is on the minds of all criminal trial jurors: “Did you do it?” “Did you kill Horace Gold?” And not long after his client answered no, John masterfully created a picture — a good one always being worth more than a thousand words — by asking his client who in the courtroom was present in the interrogation room (in real life all testifying witnesses must wait in the hallway when not on the witness stand), and calling each of those witnesses (by pointing at them with his index finger, and using a palm down hand when pointing towards a non-opponent) to stand precisely where the defendant testified they stood in relation to the accused in the witness room, to the point that finally there were jurors feeling suffocation at the proverbial lack of oxygen in that interrogation room as the defendant confessed to a murder that he did not commit.
Eliminating the barrier of the jury rail
My teacher Gerry Spence remains the greatest living trial lawyer I know of. (The Trial Lawyers College that he spearheaded is in a deep and irreversible schism, but that does not diminish Gerry’s greatness in the courtroom.) For the entire August 1995, I experienced his captivating and persuasive greatness daily at the TLC at his Dubois, Wyoming ranch. Gerry is at once fully charismatic, fully a just folks person while also very wealthy by now and with a big ego, fully acknowledging the deep pain he has experienced in his life, and embracing that pain on the road to reducing and resolving it. His realness and just folks approach with jurors clearly resonates with them.
When Gerry took on Jeffrey Feiger as his client in Feiger’s campaign finance prosecution, I wondered through a cursory review of the allegations how Gerry with this trial was going to maintain his decades-long streak of not one client convicted. Gerry got Feiger an acquittal. The most impressive account I read of Gerry’s fully captivating and connecting with and engaging this federal jury was when he started his approach one day by walking alongside the jury rail, gently running his fingers along the length of the rail, as if to be erasing that physical barrier between him and the jury, letting the jury know this is “us”, the criminal defense and the jury figuring out this case together.
Nothing beats jury trial experience
Of course, all these demonstrations I recount above took place early in my criminal defense career in the safety of lawyer training grounds. I have of course from early on witnessed colleagues masterfully captivating real jurors and pursued the same path myself. Nothing beats doing. As with all battles, we learn that the best-laid plans do not always work, which underlines the necessity of going to trial with a flow chart and with alternative battle plans. The principles remain the same regardless of barriers thrown up by judges, court rules, and the unfolding evidence, which include for a criminal defense lawyer to remain his or her most persuasively real self, to take care of the jury, and to transport the jury to the feelings and setting of the incident and scene through in-the-moment persuasive storytelling at every stage of the trial.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against felony, misdemeanor, and DUI prosecutions. Call 703-383-1100 to schedule a free consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending criminal or DWI case.