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. Freedom From Religion Foundation: If you really want to be free from religion, don't go to the Christmas Play or the Christmas Pageant or the Christmas Parade. Anything with "Christ" or Saint...fill in the blank...would be off limits to you. Then leave the rest of us ALONE!

  2. So the prosecutor made an error and the defendants get a full remedy. Just one short paragraph to undo the harm of the erroneous prosecution. Wow. Just wow.

  3. Wake up!!!! Lawyers are useless!! it makes no difference in any way to speak about what is important!! Just dont tell your plans to the "SELFRIGHTEOUS ARROGANT JERKS!! WHO THINK THEY ARE BETTER THAN ANOTHER MAN/WOMAN!!!!!!

  4. Looks like you dont understand Democracy, Civilized Society does not cut a thiefs hands off, becouse now he cant steal or write or feed himself or learn !!! You deserve to be over punished, Many men are mistreated hurt in many ways before a breaking point happens! grow up !!!

  5. It was all that kept us from tyranny. So sad that so few among the elite cared enough to guard the sacred trust. Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law. Sophocles No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor. Theodore Roosevelt That was the ideal ... here is the Hoosier reality: The King can do no wrong. Legal maxim From the Latin 'Rex non potest peccare'. When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal. Richard Nixon