Fleshing out the Criminal-Defense Skunkworks

My vision for our criminal-defense skunkworks is that each of us will choose a discipline that interests him or her, review the literature, attend classes or seminars, and try applying it in trial, all the while collaborating with the rest of us (who will have chosen different disciplines to investigate).

You know about the Trial Lawyers College, where Gerry Spence teaches psychodrama to lawyers. That’s a great example of a helpful discipline being applied to the trial of cases (there, both plaintiffs’ cases and criminal-defense cases). But it’s not the be-all and end-all. There are lots of other fields of study that could make use better lawyers, or help us communicate better with jurors, or help us tell stories better, or help us cross-examine witnesses better.

A few examples, some of which I’ve investigated a bit:

  • Improvisational theatre;
  • Interrogation;
  • Martial arts of one sort or another (the philosophy of Aikido, for example);
  • Hypnosis;
  • Taoism
  • Sociological research into authoritarianism.

“Aikido”? You ask. Yes, the less obvious the connection to defending the accused, the better.

The PI lawyers have put a lot more energy into investigating this sort of thing than we have, I think because of the additional financial motivation there. I’m sure we could find a half-dozen things to investigate just by seeing what the injury lawyers are trying.

About Mark Bennett

Mark Bennett got his letter of marque from the Supreme Court of Texas in May 1995. He is famous for having no sense of humor when it comes to totalitarianism.
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4 Responses to Fleshing out the Criminal-Defense Skunkworks

  1. Mike Engelhart says:

    I see no one using Gerry Spence’s psychodrama in voir dire. I’d like to see it tried full bore, not half-heartedly. Haven’t even seen the latter. It seems that in criminal cases, jurors are excused throughout rather than at the end of voir dire. Mark, have u seen the present-tense and “please help me with this problem” approaches advocated by Spence at work in criminal voir dire? Or in trial for that matter? What has your experience been?

    • Mark Bennett says:

      Mike, I’ve used a great deal that I learned at TLC (and in psychodrama workshops) at all phases of trial.

      Juries generally respond very well. It’s my observation that TLC alumni communicate much better with potential jurors in voir dire than most lawyers do, though an observer might not identify psychodrama’s influence.

  2. Ric Moore says:

    Read Michner’s book “Texas” for a description of “Fleabait Moomer”, an atypical Texas country criminal defense lawyer who would turn on the dead victim, with much drama, to make him appear the criminal, deserving of being shot by his client, a true Texan. The deceased victim was from Michigan, who knew not of the ways of the true Texas sportsman and got shot for his ignorance. “I rest my case, yer Honah!” The jury, after walking out and walking back in again, of course, acquitted. I guess if the victim had been a Cajun, the jury wouldn’t have had to leave the jury box. It’s a great read! :) Ric

  3. David Wyborny says:

    Fleabait is a thinly disguised “Racehorse” Haynes

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