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Nordstrom: Book offers little insight for experienced trial attorneys

Rodney Nordstrom
October 10, 2012
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The book, “Winning the Jury’s Attention: Presenting Evidence from Voir Dire to Closing,” piqued my attention as a trial lawyer and trial consultant. Anything that improves our ability to “win over” the jury for our client is worth learning about. As most trial attorneys realize, jurors are not simply going to hand over their undivided attention for a lengthy trial unless the trial attorney is capable of making it interesting for them. In the courtroom you simply cannot demand attention but must attract attention. In order to do this, you need to select the right message, present it in the right way, and do so within the allotted time. Although the tips offered in the book are solid, they are tips we have heard before.

Author Trey Cox reminds us lawyers are not considerate of jurors’ time. Jurors have lives, husbands, wives and jobs to get back to. Every minute they are sitting in trial, their normal living activity is disrupted. And though jurors take their duties seriously and will work hard to sit in judgment of your case, they do not want their time to be wasted. Too often trial lawyers waste their time by repeating the same information and asking the same questions. This turns jurors off.

Trial lawyers have to show that they are proficient and efficient at what they do. Jurors flyspeck your every move for clues to your credibility, competence and trustworthiness. If you appear lost and confused or labor over the admission of exhibits, neither you, your abilities, nor your trustworthiness will rate very high with the jury. On the other hand, if you move through the evidence efficiently, with confidence, and demonstrate a mastery of the facts, the jury will surrender its attention to you because you are a leader in the courtroom.

Cox reminds us of several common principles for communicating effectively with a jury:

• The Personal Credibility Principle: Demonstrate competence, accuracy, leadership and efficiency to gain credibility.

• The Signaling Principle: People learn better when the material is presented with clear outlines and headings.

• The Segmentation Principle: People learn better when information is presented in bite-sized chunks.

• The Multimedia Principle: People learn better from words and pictures than from words alone.

• The Coherence Principle: People learn better when extraneous material is excluded.

• The Stickiness Principle: Make your themes and ideas “sticky.”

• The Jolt Principle: Periodically jolt your jury so they don’t bolt.

Although these seven principles are always good reminders, they offered little additional new information for anyone having done more than a few jury trials. These suggestions are common sense and second nature to experienced litigators.

One shortcoming of the book is that the author does not clearly identify his target audience. This is not necessarily a big deal, but experienced litigators will find the book underwhelming. A college pre-law student or law student, taking a first trial advocacy class, would get more out of it.

The author appears to be committed to understanding jurors but his trial inexperience is demonstrated by his lack of examples of actual trial applications. In other words, he advances the usual tips important to most trial advocates; i.e., “don’t speak like a lawyer,” “be confident” and “value the jury’s time.” He also cites to the perfunctory Aristotle’s Principles of Rhetoric (Logos, Pathos and Ethos) and Rule of Threes. The book reads more like a primer to jury selection, rather than a book on meaningful tips for experienced litigators.

The author heralds his many personal accomplishments; however many of these compliments refer to his rating in Martindale Hubble and recognition by the “Best Lawyers” title but do not reference any meaningful or significant trial victories let alone trial experiences. He also references his experience clerking for a federal District judge.

Although Cox is described in his book as “a pioneer in complex technology and neuroscientific principles to improve jury communications and persuasion,” nothing in the book appears to be “pioneering” and little, if any, offers to “advanced technology and neuroscientific principles” as they relate to “winning” jurors’ attention. Despite the limitations mentioned above, Cox’s effort is quite apparent. The book does offer merit as an overview of how common skills can benefit a beginning trial lawyer. The book by Trey Cox is 201 pages, 14 chapters, published by First Chair Press, and sells for $69.95.•

Rodney Nordstrom Ph.D., J.D., is a trial consultant with his company Litigation Simulation Services (www.litsim) located in Peoria, Ill. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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    Photo taken in the Bencher's Room of the Honorable Society of the King's Inns: (From left to right) Michael Collins SC, Mr Justice Paul Carney, Dermot Gleeson SC, Mr Justice Niall Fennelly, Tom Girardi, David Barniville SC, Mr. Justice Donal O'Donnell, Turlough O'Donnell SC, Paul Gallaher SC, Mr. Justice Colm Ó h’Eochaidh, Brian Murray SC, Paul Sreenan SC and Mr. trial attorneys

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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