The Importance of “Make People Afraid”

I said yesterday that what’s important about the Chronicle writing that Kelly Siegler admonished other lawyers to “make people afraid” is that jurors know about it.

Why? Because I think people are much less likely to be manipulated if they know that someone is going to be trying to manipulate them.

Please_ignore_the_man_behind_the_curtain.jpg

If a prosecutor gets up in voir dire and says, “now, during this trial, I’m going to try to make you peopleafraid. How do you feel about that?” how do you think the jurors will respond? Favorably? Or do you think people don’t want to be deliberately made to feel one way or another?

Suppose the defense lawyer gets up in voir dire and says, “now, this prosecutor has written that she thinks that a prosecutor’s job is to make people afraid. How do y’all* feel about that?”

Or how about if (again in jury selection — the only time we get to speak last) the defense lawyer says “sometimes a prosecutor will try to make jurors feel afraid so that they are misled from following the law. If the prosecutor in this case does that, how do you think it’ll make you feel?”

My guess is that, having had their attention directed toward the government’s strategy, the jury will be less likely to be made afraid, less likely to act on fear, and more likely to respond to the defense’s evidence and argument. More likely, too, to consider their doubts reasonable — a doubt will seem less reasonable in the face of fear.

In a similar vein, see Prosecutorial Memes.


* That’s “youse guys,” for you New Yorkers.

3 Comments

  1. Hmmm. Maybe you should try it in your next case, Mark.

    I can think of several things that a prosecutor could say with his or her final word that would make you wish you had never been so clever.

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