The Champion

March 2007 , Page 26 

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Speaking for the Accused: Creating Stories and Themes

By Steve Baxley

Impressions win trials and sentencing disputes, and facts create impressions. In the hands of a skillful advocate, facts become a persuasive story that engages the mind and moves the heart. Persuasive stories have clear and memorable themes. And you can use these themes to win more trials and get better results at sentencing through effective presentation techniques.

What follows is a brief introduction that criminal defense lawyers can use to create impressions at trial or during a sentencing hearing. The major proposition is that we both educate and persuade judges and juries through our use of good storytelling. I discuss how to craft a story, create and use themes, and present the story to the court or a jury. Even though most lawyers often learn about storytelling in the trial context, the tools discussed are applicable to the guilt-innocence issue and sentencing issues.

Crafting the Story

When beginning any case you must ask yourself, “What is this case

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