Regardless of your politics, you can’t help but admire the skill of the January 6th Committee in presenting its case to the public.
The Committee has seamlessly braided videos, audio interviews, live witness testimony, graphics, and other exhibits to present its case against the former president.
Facts + pizzazz = persuasive advocacy.
Facts + pizzazz = persuasive advocacy. When these varied resources undergird the arguments, they pack a potent punch!
The authors of a recent New York Times article – “How the House Jan. 6 Panel Has Redefined the Congressional Hearing” – deconstruct the commission’s strategies for conveying its case against the former president. Jamie Raskin, a member of the committee was interviewed and observed, “We have really made full use out of video, out of tweets and email, and interspersing technology with live statements by the witnesses and the members.”
The January 6th Committee: A Clear Message and Story
Michael Weisman, a long-time television producer, observed, “there is a clarity of message and a clear story that is being told,” (as quoted in the New York Times article cited above).
Isn’t this what we aspire to in presenting our case in court? Clarity in telling the story is critical to a successful result. Another way of describing this is to develop a thematic approach to the case:
- What is this case really about?
- What is the universal message?
- And what evidence can we apply to paint the landscape so that it shimmers?
Much of Donald Trump’s political success comes from harnessing populist themes and effectively weaving them into his narrative. The January 6th committee has improved on Trump’s formula – but instead of just appealing to emotion, the committee also speaks to the intellect of the audience. Ultimately, it is the marriage of both pathos and logos that creates the best presentation. An argument that relies solely on emotion will not have the same power. Successful argumentation in court relies on facts and logic as its primary drivers.
Variety is the Spice of Life (and Court)
The January 6th committee is telling its story through a variety of media. It is this variety that propels the narrative, making it resonate with the audience (who in this case is the public). Make your court case sing in this fashion as well.
Advocates can take a page out of the committee’s playbook, and learn from its success.
While I am far from a master of technology, thanks to the mentoring of my friend Chris Melcher, I am learning how to use the TrialPad iPad application to enhance my presentations. Trial Pad allows me to project digital images, and allows for highlighting, pop-outs, document markup, etc. This app allows a punchier use of exhibits to tell the story – either by projecting the images onto a screen or a video monitor.
Imagine, for example, examining a witness on a contested clause in a prenuptial agreement. Wouldn’t a visual image like the one below enhance the presentation? Of course it would!
Visuals can also be used for impeachment. Imagine projecting an inconsistency from a page of a transcript rather than simply reading the inconsistency to the witness? Having the judge both hear and see the inconsistent statement is much more memorable.
Or consider examining an expert witness with the paragraph of the report under inquiry, popped out of the text and projected onto a screen:
Ma’am, drawing your attention to this pop-out excerpt on page 57 of your report, you interviewed the CFO of the business… Please tell the Judge how this helped you formulate your opinion.
Let the judge absorb both the text and the testimony simultaneously.
Also, imagine the creative uses for closing arguments. You can project critical language from the statute or case law with the salient passage highlighted. Or post a page from the trial transcript where an important admission was made. As another option, circle back to critical exhibits, highlighted (or otherwise visually enhanced), to remind the court of the evidence. Create and project graphs or other demonstrative aids to tell the story. Inasmuch as technology is so potent today, one is limited only by his or her ambition or creativity.
Show and Tell
While the January 6th Committee surely didn’t invent the notion of telling a story using multimedia, they have turned it into high art. It is Trial 101 to both “show and tell,” but the committee here vividly reminds us of the potency of the maxim.
To sustain the attention of a bored and overworked trial judge, insert some pizzazz into the presentation.
It’s trite to observe that we have cultural ADD due to social media and other distractions. But as a trial lawyer, one is loath to forget it. To sustain the attention of a bored and overworked trial judge, insert some pizzazz into the presentation.
Adopt the techniques of the January 6th committee. Use multimedia, variety, and a consistent message to make for a memorable – and successful – presentation.
Advocacy Tips: Exhibits, Witness Management, & Objections
This post will cover the admission and use of exhibits, witness management, and how to avoid and respond to objections.
Great Lawyers Steal from the Best
Whether you wish to become a legendary advocate, orator, or writer, seek out appropriate role models to guide you. Nobody develops in a vacuum. Learn from the best and steal your way to greatness!