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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
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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