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I identified the main message from each attorney in the previous section, and I analyze the claims here within the model’s parameters to show how an audience could perceive the accuracy of the competing claims. The primary audience of both messages is the general public; the information is reported by the news media to the public using means available to the general public—print media, television, and the Internet. However, it is reasonable to anticipate a jury or judge becoming an audience.

Much of that audience’s perception is affected by elements associated with prior experience, as noted in previous chapters. However, there is overlap with the other attributes of the model because videos related to the shooting exist.

Prior Experience

The potential audience has learned to respect police officers as representing law and security. The audience, also, understands that officers generally do not use deadly force unless provoked in a situation in which their life is threatened by someone else. However, the audience has also heard of cases in which unethical officers have abused their authority or used


Figure 10.2 Model.

excessive force to address a given situation. I do not list any examples here; one needs only to Google “police use of excessive force” to find a listing of several examples. Some may have experience of having been mistreated, or with friends who were mistreated, by police. Finally, in the immediate context, the public is likely aware of the previous shootings of African Americans by White police officers since the debate was a national one and in the news for at least two years. So, one could be affected by either perspective relative to the case itself. The audience’s perception of the case facts, prior to this debate about the report’s findings, may influence perception of the messages here.

The perception of police as keepers of law and safety would alleviate any concerns of the amygdala; there is nothing to fear, and police protect the general public from harm. One who has been negatively affected by police violence or excessive force may have memories in their hippocampus that elicit fear from the amygdala, though. So, both perspectives may influence an audience based on their own experiences with police. The prosecution would re-enforce that perception, while the defense would highlight the potential for abuse of power and use of excessive force, eliciting fear from the amygdala and drawing on those particular cases.

Another attribute of prior experience is that both attorneys use the report’s authors’ records, or prior experiences, to support their claim. Each focuses on the authors’ record that supports their own claim. Chandra draws on video posted to YouTube of one of the authors already having formed an opinion. Chandra would likely show that video in court (Visual Dominance) to support that claim.

Chandra also states that a judgement by the other author was found to be flawed. Chandra asserts that both are pro-police, rendering their opinions biased in favor of police. An audience that is aware of other cases when people were biased for any reason would perceive such statements as accurate, influencing their perception against the authors’ credibility. “Clearly, these are people who have shown themselves to be biased in the past; they are likely biased in this case too,” one might perceive. The video related to the one author along with the video of the shooting would reinforce that perception.

McGinty, on the other hand, notes that both are considered in the legal community to be experts and that neither was compensated in any way for their work, suggesting them to be independent and objective. An audience that understands that recognition from an entire field regarding expertise and objectivity in someone as a powerful builder of credibility would perceive that the authors are credible and can be objective. Neither has a stake in the outcome of the case; so, they can be independent; though both were linked to government offices. Further, that neither is receiving economic compensation of any kind enhances the perception that they are objective and independent. If they were being paid by the prosecutor’s office for the investigation, there could be a perceived bias toward favoring an outcome that the prosecution wanted. The prosecutor could even call on them in a trial environment as expert testimony, eliciting mirror neurons form a jury or judge.

The audiences’ prior experiences with bias and credibility affect their perception of who is likely to be more correct in their statement— Chandra or McGinty. The jury selection process may shed light on the potential bias/perceptions of the jury; questions pertaining to prior experiences with police and perception of police could reveal such biases. The way those in the jury pool dress and behave toward oral questions about these may also reveal bias toward a given perception of police.

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