The Goals of The
In court your goals as a persuader are the same as any other case advocate: You want to
inspire, influence and empower your judge or jury to decide the case in your
In a sense you are playing quarterback in this role, dropping back to deliver the ball smartly
up field to an uncovered receiver, or tucking it away in your fullback’s breadbasket so he can rumble three or
four yards for the first down. You should see these trial decision-makers as teammates ready to execute whatever
plays you call and churn up yardage toward the end zone. Your role is to call the right play for the situation
and then drop back and deliver the ball.
Inspire the Decision Maker: Judges and experienced lawyers have long known that jurors – and the rest
of the human race for that matter – make decisions by combining logical facts with emotional factors to reach
conclusions - just like Aristotle observed thousands of years ago. What may be surprising is the order in which
these elements come together.
Most forensic psychologists understand that jurors make decisions based on emotion first, and
then sift through the evidence for information that validates their conclusion logically. While this validation
process is essential – jurors will abandon a purely emotional appeal that is not accompanied by corroborating,
validating evidence – they will also cling to these early perceptions tenaciously if properly reinforced.
You should also know that if you make an emotional appeal but fail to back it up properly, a
juror is likely to punish you for leading him or her astray. Such jurors become doubly hard to convince with
even the most compelling argument, while often they will redirect their favor to your opponent.
Additionally, jurors can arrive at decisions using what psychologists call central
cues – information processed which is central or integral to the case – or through more roundabout
means, using peripheral cues. Peripheral cues are elements of information not logically related to
the central issue. So, where central cues relate directly to the evidence in a case, circumstantial or
conclusive, expert or eyewitness testimony for example, peripheral cues acting on a juror’s decision-making
process are not directly related to those core components. They might include everything from how attractive the
litigant appears to the juror, to how long-winded the questioning becomes around the noontime lunch hour.
Generally, when the arguments confuse the juror or become difficult to understand, central cue
logic recedes and peripheral cue decision-making comes to the fore. Fatigue, distraction and intellectual
disengagement can also cause jurors to abandon central cue decision-making. You should watch carefully for
warning signs indicating that you’ve “lost” your listeners, even if it means throwing out your carefully
constructed presentation in favor of something more … provocative. Many times less is more.
Influence the Decision Maker: Take a minute to read the following quote.
“First, influence occurs when a source deliberately tries to change a receiver. Second,
persuasion occurs when a source deliberately uses communication to change a receiver's attitude. Third, an
attitude is a person's evaluation of an object of thought. … Any time a source deliberately attempts to change a
receiver's thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, influence has occurred.”
--- Attitudes Drive
Behavior: Prof. Steve Booth-Butterfield, W. Virginia University
Working from the professor’s definition, influence occurs when the advocate deliberately tries
to change the thinking of judge and jury. The key determinant in that equation is the judge or jurors’ attitude.
Since the Creator has endowed human beings with free will we won’t get far in life trying to force others to do
what we want them to do.
Before we can influence others to think or believe or behave in a certain way, we have to work
first on their underlying attitudes. Most often, people make the vast bulk of their decisions based on this
Think for a moment of the major shift in attitudes among ordinary Americans on cigarette
smoking for example. Once, as recently as the early nineties, the tobacco lobby was among the most powerful
interest groups in this country, inspiring awe and fear among the ranks of elected officials. The political
fortunes of many lawmakers over the years were won or lost on how they came down on big tobacco.
For decades, ordinary Americans smoked where and when they pleased – in offices and
restaurants, at home and at school – without fear of the management asking them to tamp out their butts. People
even used to smoke in movie theaters and airplanes. What happened? Attitudes changed. Why? Because study after
study showed the harmful effects of smoking. Public health officials like the Surgeon General and others in the
medical community declared open warfare on tobacco use. Anti-smoking activists took up the crusade, demanding
the right to breathe smoke-free air. They pushed until it gave and over time, attitudes changed.