Pyschodrama in the Courtroom

Pyschodrama as the best tool to win over jurors? The LA Times explains.

The article focuses on personal injury lawyers, but it is also used by criminal defense lawyers. It's a really interesting topic, bound to provoke strong reactions from non-lawyers. The article begins:

The lawyer stood sobbing in the center of a darkened hotel conference room, ringed by dozens of other personal-injury lawyers. As the attorney recalled the final moments of his mother's life, his voice cracked and his body shook with repressed grief. And all around the circle, the lawyers watching him also began to weep.

Then the others began to make their own confessions: "My parents died … ," one began, his voice husky with tears. "I was disconnected from my father …," another said. "All of a sudden, I thought about my mother … ," a third added.

The seminar leader is a lawyer named Judd Basile,who learned the method from Gerry Spence who has been teaching it at his trial college for years. Every lawyer I know how has attended Spence's 3 week course in Wyoming swears by it.

Basile and his mentor, lawyer and author Gerry Spence, say the technique helps attorneys become better people. Proponents also contend that it can help them persuade juries to award millions of dollars to their clients — about 40% of which typically goes to the lawyer.

Psychodrama, in which participants gain insight by acting out scenes from their own lives, was developed by Romanian-born psychiatrist J.L. Moreno, who brought it to the U.S. in the 1920s.

One technique:

A facilitator asked the lawyers to imagine a client who had touched them deeply. Then, she said, "Take on the physical persona of that client." Finally, she asked the lawyers to tell the client's story — in the client's voice.

Lawyers began to act like car crash victims with missing limbs, or like people with brain injuries or disfigured faces.

It is reminiscent of the sensitivity training of the 60's and 70's. Does anyone remember Est? It's a really interesting article, hope you read the whole thing.

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    Sounds healthy (4.00 / 1) (#1)
    by squeaky on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 03:36:41 PM EST
    Any work like this is bound to help a person develop a fuller emotional range and thus become more effective in fostering empathy.  Being vulnerable while under attack gives us the best chance of a positive outcome. It needs to be learned as our defense system naturally does the opposite and hardens under attack. I am glad to see this work being done. At the very least, these lawyers will have less stress in their lives and at the most they will be more effective at convincing a jury.

    Of course there are people in all walks of life who will misuse their power. That is a given.  

    What will the judge think of this? (none / 0) (#2)
    by JSN on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 03:49:52 PM EST

    The jury's still the thing (none / 0) (#3)
    by Dadler on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 03:58:22 PM EST
    And as long as most juries are made up of average folks, most of whom can be fairly easily manipulated (see Borat or, heck, just try it yourself), then good "performance" skills will play an important role in a lawyer's repetoire.  In reality, facts is all that should matter.  We all know, with faulty humans, that ain't always the case.  

    i suppose this may be (none / 0) (#4)
    by cpinva on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 04:11:58 PM EST
    somewhat useful, but i question just how effective it's going to prove on the average jury. i sat on a personal injury (medical malpractice) jury a couple of years ago, made up of a fair range of people.

    we sat for nearly two weeks (we got interrupted by a hurricane!) of testimony, including the plaintif. when all was said and done, it boiled down to facts: was standard medical procedure followed or not? if not, who was responsible for it not being followed? etc, etc, etc.

    the plaintif in the witness chair, while resulting in some empathy, had no effect whatever on the outcome.

    I'm curious (none / 0) (#5)
    by Repack Rider on Sat Nov 25, 2006 at 08:06:35 PM EST
    Do truth, justice, evidence and logic have any place in these deliberations, or is it just a sales job?

    Wait.  OJ was acquitted.

    Never mind.