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,, and Joey can be reached at 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,, is located in Peoria, Ill. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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  1. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  2. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  3. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  4. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.

  5. (A)ll (C)riminals (L)ove (U)s is up to their old, "If it's honorable and pro-American, we're against it," nonsense. I'm not a big Pence fan but at least he's showing his patriotism which is something the left won't do.