Rotunda in Toronto Star: Entrancing the Jury

Attorneys' use of body language, facial expressions and vocal timbre are tactics that have been used to try to influence juries for decades according to legal ethics expert Professor Ronald Rotunda, who commented on these types of legal maneuvers in a Toronto Star news article looking at lawyers' behavior in the current U. S. federal court trial of Conrad Black for fraud.

Pulling out all the smirks at Black trial; Lawyers woo jury with well-honed body language, Toronto Star, April 4, 2007. By Rick Westhead.

"Lawyers for decades have experimented with using body mannerisms, postures or facial expressions to try to influence jurors, says Ronald Rotunda, a George Mason University law professor who specializes in legal ethics issues.

"'Whether it's smiling or snickering, everybody's looking for a way to try and convince the jury that they're right,' Rotunda says. 'The danger is that you don't want to appear forced or silly or inappropriate.'

"A U.S. federal prosecutor involved in Timothy McVeigh's bombing trial in Oklahoma City was admonished by a judge when he became choked up as he questioned a witness.

"Some lawyers have even resorted to parlour tricks.

"When smoking was permitted in some courtrooms, famed U.S. lawyer Clarence Darrow purportedly would slip a paper clip into the end of his cigar, Rotunda says.

"As his rivals tried to make key points to the jury, Darrow would make a point of showing the stogie with its physics-defying buildup of ashes.

"'You want to entrance the jury and if it distracts the other lawyers, all the better,' Rotunda says." 

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