Themes: Part 12

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c. Movements and Gestures

Movements or gestures form part of the style of summation. The more flamboyant the attorney’s style of delivery, the more movements and gestures are used. Some movements and gestures are essential. An effective summation cannot be given by standing in one spot, rigid and stiff. On the other hand, too much uncontrolled movement is distracting. The speaker who paces back and forth in an uncontrolled fashion, like a caged lion, actually distracts the jurors with his movements and gestures.

No attorney should use gestures or movements with which he is totally uncomfortable. A background in some type of public speaking is helpful in developing appropriate movements and gestures. Most communities have toastmaster clubs or other such clubs where the neophyte attorney can develop important speaking skills. He will find that the practiced gestures become more natural as he learns to use his movements to correctly emphasize important points.

As effective means of developing gesturing skills is by the use of videotaped practice sessions. This allows an individual to learn about his own style and gestures and how to use them most effectively. If we attempt to communicate through the nonverbal channel with inappropriate and improperly timed gestures, jurors will perceive a lack of authenticity, at least on the subconscious level. Generally, most of the attorney’s movements during summation ought to be restricted to the upper torso. He can move from side to side, but generally should be stationary for many moments at a time, never appearing to be nervously pacing. Movements of the upper torso appear more like gestures of nervousness if made too close to the body. Arm and hand movements need to be full and robust, and certainly at no time should the attorney stand with his hands in his pockets. Nor should his hands be clasped tightly behind his back as such movements are distracting and definitely affect credibility. The only object which should be held during summation is one you intend to use, i.e., a piece of evidence to be shown to the jury or a pointer of some type used as an extension of your arm. A collapsible-type pointer is recommended because it looks more professional and projects an air of authority and competence.

d. Touching the Client
The jury searches for and is impressed by an apparent relationship between the attorney and the client. This is particularly true where the attorney is representing an individual rather than a corporation or some other nonpersonal entity. If the attorney is representing an individual in a personal injury claim, some physical touching of the client is essential during the course of the trial and during summation because touching is interpreted as a sign of affection. Although it is nonverbal, it will surely be picked up by the “Sherlock Holmes” of the jury. It is a nonverbal cue that can only be narrowly interpreted. It projects the attorney’s belief in the client and the warm relationship that exists between them. Touching projects that the attorney, like the juror, has feelings about and empathy for human beings and their suffering.

The caveat regarding touching the client is that it must always be appropriate and almost incidental. The sex and age of the client and the attorney must be considered to avoid all sexual connotations potentially associated with the touching. The young male attorney should never touch a young female personal injury client, nor should a young male client be touched by a young female attorney. An older fatherly-type attorney may appropriately put his arm around or touch the client of either sex. An older female attorney can be seen as mothering younger client by her touch. The touching of older clients by younger attorneys, regardless of the sex, is usually permissible as long as the touch can be interpreted as indicating that “I believe in this client,” or “I have feelings for this client.”

e. Dressing for Summation
As the trial progresses, the attorney’s dress should become progressively more conservative. An attorney representing a seriously injured client in a civil case will be making a somber summation emphasizing the serious injuries and damages suffered by the client. Appropriate dress for the delivery of such a somber message approximates the visual image of the minister who has come to the house to tell the widow that her husband died in an accident. The attorney wants to be identified with the archconservative banker-type, dressing in dark blue or gray. As discussed previously, the attorney’s dress obviously varies according to the sex and personality of the attorney.

2. Mood Transference
Well trained actors and orators create moods by the use of verbal, vocal, and non-verbal cues. The words they choose to use and how those words are used, combined with eye movement and gestures, can be an effective means of mood transference. Great actors repeatedly create a mood every night, sometimes for years, while doing a Broadway show. The great actors do not go through the emotional turmoil of feeling that mood night after night, rather, they create the mood by pure acting.

However, this is where the actor and the advocate part company. For example, in order for a plaintiff’s attorney to fully and completely generate empathy in the hearts and minds of jurors with the plight of the paralytic plaintiff, it is necessary for the attorney to understand, appreciate and feel that plight at a gut level. Merely verbalizing the words, describing the horrors of paralysis is not sufficient because it is absolutely essential that the verbal content of the summation be consistent with the vocal and non-verbal behavioral cues which the attorney conveys to the jury.

In order to maximize the consistency between the verbal, vocal and non-verbal communication on the issue, the attorney must fully empathize with the client’s plight, i.e., feel the loss. This is because, whether we realize it or not, whether we attempt to control it or not, the attorney, during summation, will transfer his mood to the jury through behavioral cues, voice inflection and verbal content of the persuasive speech. One of the reasons that the jury system in America works so magnificently is that the collective wisdom of the jury far outweighs the persuasive talents of counsel. The lawyer who attempts to mislead the jury through the power of oratory, without substantive evidence, will most often be spotted by the jury because the non-verbal behavioral cues are inconsistent with the message which the attorney is attempting to convey.

There is a definite role for a more profound understanding of the channels of communication with juries. For example, the plaintiff’s attorney who is attempting to persuade the jury as to the seriousness of a client’s injury, at the crucial point of conveying sadness, should lower his eyes towards the left side while gesturing downward with the left hand, in such a manner as to cause the jurors to lower their eyes towards the lower right hand corner. This eye position of jurors allows greater accessibility to kinesthetic communication and opens the jurors up for experiencing the emotional feelings which counsel has attempted to convey.

Making emotional statements also affects the breathing patterns of the attorney. The more depressing the news, the more slowly the rate of breathing. Therefore, conveying a sad mood requires the attorney slowing the breathing rate while breathing more deeply. On the other hand, indignation or rage about a person’s conduct is best conveyed by more rapid shallow breathing. These behavioral cues are communicated to the jury more effectively than the verbal content of the message, particularly when the verbal and non-verbal messages are inconsistent.

Pacing and Leading to Create a Mood Transference

Transferring a mood in the courtroom is the process of leading jurors to experience a particular emotional state. This state might be a state of anger, empathy, or pity. Or, the attorney may want the jurors to view everything in a very logical, detached type of perspective. In almost every instance, the attorney is probably trying to counter the emotional state that opposing counsel is attempting to create.

It is very important that you understand how to create a mood or emotional state that jurors experience in the courtroom. Your opening statement and closing argument, as well as everything that has transpired in the courtroom, has to support the way you are trying to lead the jurors. Keep in mind that these are not individual strategies to be used by themselves, but to be used collectively. The following sections discuss how to transfer feelings, factual information, and visual information.

a. Transferring a Feeling
Before we can understand how to transfer a feeling, it is important to understand what behavioral cues tend to go along with a person experiencing a particular feeling. When you want jurors to experience the state of extreme empathy, the trauma of a tragedy that has taken place, the deep emotional feeling and concern for a family that lost a loved one, then you must not only display certain behavioral cues, but you must lead the jurors to use these cues themselves. If you have already established rapport with the jurors, when you use these behaviors they will begin to pace you. Of course, this is the true test of your being able to lead the jurors. If you want jurors to experience a particular state as you are presenting your opening or closing statement, for example, you need to use those behaviors (vocal, verbal, and nonverbal cues) that correspond with the particular drama that you are trying to create. Too often trial attorneys will deliver a very emotional argument in terms of the verbal content and not use the correct vocal and nonverbal behaviors. If the verbal content is in itself emotional, but the vocal and nonverbal behaviors are not, the attorney will not be able to transfer an emotional state to the jurors. Given a contradiction between vocal and nonverbal behaviors and verbal content, jurors will believe the behaviors. Therefore, your behaviors will nullify the effect of the emotional story or picture that you are trying to paint.

For example, to convey a feeling of empathy for a tragic emotional experience of your client you will want to utilize the following behaviors:

  • A slower voice tone
  • A lower voice tone
  • Extremes in vocal patterns from soft to loud
  • Dropping the eyes to lower right
  • Using left-handed gestures and hand movements that pull the eyes of the jurors down to their lower right
  • Using a slower movement pattern
  • Using a slower breathing pattern
  • Using dramatic pauses

Beginning with the first item on the list, it must be recognized that a slower voice tone correlates with a depressed emotional state. When a person is experiencing a feeling, his voice pattern tends to become slower and his vocal tone tends to drop lower. This is the way we express concern.

By using extreme vocal tones of going from soft to loud, you will be able to create the drama that is associated with feeling. This means being able to develop the voice so that it will go through all ranges and all types of pitch patterns. An individual can best process kinesthetic information when the eyes are dropped down to the lower right. It increases the jurors ability to experience what you are describing. You must remember that if you are not genuinely feeling the effect that you want to create, it will be impossible for jurors to feel that same state. You need to bring about the particular behavioral state by feeling the emotion you wish to transfer. Drop your eyes down to the lower right, collapse the upper chest cavity as though you have sighed, and let out your air. Theses are the appropriate nonverbal cues to use to create a feeling of tragedy.

The next step is to make sure the jurors start to process the information on a kinesthetic or feeling level. To do this, use left-handed gestures. Keep the gestures low enough so as to pull the juror’s eye contact down into their lower right hand corner. When done properly, they are in the mood to process kinesthetic information. Therefore, you want to deliver your most important and dramatic lines when their eyes are in this position. Save this type of motion and gesture for the key points.

Slower movement patterns are also indicative of conveying an emotional state to jurors. To convey the tragedy, therefore, you do not want to be fast or flip. Rather, you want to be slow and draw it out when describing it.

A very critical consideration with the kinesthetic transference of mood is the use of slower breathing pattern. When a person is feeling emotional, he usually breathes from his abdominal cavity, there are more pause patterns, and he tends to sigh. In order to convey and transfer this feeling, you will need to use the same behaviors.

The other feeling that counsel may want transferred in certain very limited situations is when counsel is trying to instill anger on the part of the jurors. In other words, arousing their feelings so that they are angry at an injustice that has taken place. Anger has several other behavioral characteristics that go with it. In order to transfer or display the characteristics of anger, the following behavioral patterns must occur:

  • A fast vocal tone
  • Usually a higher vocal tone
  • Louder vocal tone
  • Eyes moving straight across
  • Direct eye contact
  • Gestures that are mid-waist to upper level
  • Gestures that are firm and definite
  • Quicker movement patterns
  • Decisive movement patterns
  • Dramatic pauses

The sense of conveying anger has an altogether quicker movement pattern. When a person is angry, he tends to breath in his upper chest area, so his breathing pattern is very different. He moves at a different rate. In order to motivate people to become angry, both the attorney’s speech patterns and movement patterns must be quicker. To convey anger, you have to come forward and be aggressive in your behaviors. Do not be afraid to point, as long as you are pointing at opposing counsel or his client. Never use the pointed finger at your own people.

The best way to practice the transference of a kinesthetic feeling is to first take the feeling that you are trying to convey and put yourself in the same body position and state of mind. Before going into the courtroom, you should experience whatever state you are trying to convey on a personal level. For example, to convey the feeling of anger, practice being angry. Practice feeling the emotional state yourself and try to perceive behaviors that you have in that state. Observe yourself. When you are unhappy, notice what you do. When you are happy or carefree, notice your behaviors. Also become a watcher of people and study basic human nature. You will notice the behaviors that people use in displaying anger or passion or empathy are very similar. All you have to do is understand those behaviors, use them, feel the state, and then transfer the mood to the jurors.

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