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Persuasion in a New Jersey Criminal Trial

Associated Press reported on January 12, 2010 “More than 6 jobless workers chase 1 opening”. With the competition for jobs intensifying as companies are reluctant to hire new workers, there will be more people looking to reduce their criminal liability when they get in trouble with the law. A simple argument can turn into a criminal assault record, which may appear in someone’s background check for life when looking for employment.

In New Jersey, a defendant on calendar for a trial requires a criminal defense attorney experienced in persuasion. At the American Association for Justice 2009 Annual Convention, on 7/29/2009, trial lawyers defined persuasion as an attorney’s ability to present a case to a jury. The jury will feel how an attorney feels about his/her client, and how an attorney feels about the case.

A persuasive criminal defense attorney presents the case theme repeatedly throughout the case in the opening statement, during direct witness questioning, during cross examinations of hostile witnesses, in the closing statement. For example: Promises. In a trial for assault, an attorney may remind people when they sign contracts, they make promises. A construction company makes a promise to keep job sites safe. Spouses make promises when they marry. It is human to get angry when a spouse breaks a marriage vow by having an affair. It is human when emotions rise for someone make threats they may not mean or intend to carry out.

Juries in New Jersey usually do not trust lawyers. Attorneys are known to the common person to be manipulative in turning something thought to be wrong into a right. A persuasive attorney needs to control the witnesses, his/her clients, opposing attorneys, the victims. To persuade, an attorney gets jurors to remember what s/he wants them to remember, and gets jurors to focus only on the facts, s/he wants them to see. Jurors remember most from words and photos. On the average, after a 3 day trial, jurors remember 20% of visuals. When jurors have to see words and visuals at the same time like videos that have scrolling text at the bottom, they get distracted. After 3 days, jurors in a criminal trial, remember 10% of auditory. Jurors also remember graphics (e.g. diagrams), which let jurors know where to concentrate.

An experienced criminal defense attorney discusses the basics first. The attorney may not make a witness comfortable by asking background questions, but persist to ask the difficult questions multiple times to get at the guts of the matter.

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