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Persuasion, Perception, and the Law

Attorneys present persuasive messages in various forms in the course of their regular work. Indeed, much about law and litigation revolves around making a persuasive case to influence someone else’s perception of a case and applicable laws, be it a judge, jury, or someone with whom one is negotiating an issue. Some of this work occurs privately via personal communication such as e-mail, and some of it occurs more publicly through submitted court documents and news reports in which attorneys provide information about the case and their own client’s position on the case. This work also occurs in face-to-face meetings with each other, their clients, and in face-to-face presentation before a judge or jury. In all situations, the attorney must be aware of the means available to present the message as well as the audiences involved.

A growing body of scholarship on the neural attributes of persuasion in court cases and other legal settings exists (Freeman, 2011). For example, Capraro (2011) notes that when a powerful image is integrated to elicit emotional response, it usually has the intended effect (p. 414). While I have read some of this scholarship, I do not pretend to have legal training. My reports and analyses are based on observation, experience, a cursory understanding of legal studies, and mostly on principles of rhetoric.

In this chapter I present two legal case studies to illustrate application of the model in such situations. I use public information available; so, all of the case details that I present and related video to which I refer can be viewed by the reader for verification. One case involves debate about whether to pursue a trial related to a personal injury case. The other involves the arguments associated with the O.J. Simpson trial from 1995 regarding a glove as evidence in his murder trial.

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