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Book Review: 'Performance on Trial: The Case for Better Entertainment'

Rodney Nordstrom
July 18, 2012
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As the lights dim, the soundtrack from the “Godfather” starts and a colorful, tough-looking, rotund Italian cradling a Churchill cigar enters stage right. Joey “The See”, aka Joseph Curcillo III, is a successful magician and defense attorney. At night, Joey performs for audiences in theaters seating thousands. By day, Joe performs before juries of 12 with the power to grant life or death. From two-hour evening shows to jury trials lasting weeks and requiring a lawyer to perform 10 hours a day, Joe lives for his audiences.
 

il-nordstorm-15col.jpg (Photo submitted)

His new book discusses perfecting the art of communication, audience perception and strategic performance techniques necessary for successful presentations. Joe has spent 25 years at the top of his profession as a successful judge, prosecutor and trial lawyer. By fusing together a lifetime of experience as a performer with the secrets of winning in the courtroom, he has produced the method for trial attorneys who want to succeed with juries. His new book, “Performance on Trial: the Case for Better Entertainment,” teaches presentation skills from the perspective of a professional who understands what an audience needs.

His skills as a professional presenter are the result of years of training and experience on stage in theater and “on stage” in court. His mastery of these two worlds has made him one of the most highly sought-after performance trainers for the legal profession. Joe has spent the last 25 years teaching trial lawyers how to present winning cases. Whether he is on stage entertaining corporate executives or in court defending a client charged with violent crimes, Joe knows the ultimate goal is winning the audience. His book consists of a rather interesting compilation and insights necessary for successful trial work. The six-chapter, 154-page book discusses the roles of both magic performer and trial attorney. Aristotle’s basics of rhetoric: Pathos, Logo and Ethos are the underpinnings for the book. He creatively accentuates his chapters with clever quotes from a range of sources including Ian Anderson (Jethro Tull), Humphrey Bogart, Lenny Bruce, Monty Python, Francis Bacon and Milton Erickson.

Joe starts by saying, “…they (the jury) want to hear words that are in your heart, or you are not ready to present a winning case.” Rhetorically he asks, “Do you give your audience the information to choose the world you want them to accept? Do you argue the facts through your passion for the topic so the audience will follow your conclusions?” Simply put, will your audience (jury) want to take you on a second date?

According to Joe, your opening is the dust jacket of your entire presentation and must motivate jurors to open the book, not just stare at the cover, and must resemble a movie trailer. In a rather profound insight, he says he prefers to “walk along the edge of reality until the audience settles into the outskirts of the secondary world you create for them.”

In his chapter on storytelling, he offers the following COLOR acronym: Clarity of thought, Open your mind, Listen to your instincts, Observe your audience and Rehearse. This simplified reminder should help you connect with jurors, causing them to suspend their reality and briefly enter your world. The most effective argument is one in which the jurors enjoy being involved. Remember, your presentation is for them, not you.

“Performance on Trial” draws parallels between performance skills of the magician and trial attorney. At times, he takes a light and sometimes humorous approach to his presentations. Joe reminds us that an easy way of motivating your jury is to make your world so inviting that they truly want to understand your case. But it is so much more than that; he refocuses attention back on the importance of jury-centered advocacy, not attorney-centered case presentation. The book sells for $39.95 and is available from ThoughtEmporium, www.thoughtemporium.com, and Joey can be reached at jac@bclegal.com. Joey warns you to read his book or you’ll be seeing him.•

__________

Rodney Nordstrom, Ph.D., J.D. is a trial consultant and magician. His trial consulting company, Litigation Simulation Services, www.litsim.com, is located in Peoria, Ill. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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