Communication in the courtroom
Peggy S. Torres
Western International University
CRB-360-3722-Communication Criminal Justice-03/2010
Professor Raymond November
April 5, 2010
Communication in the courtroom
Communication influences the way people perceive one another and how facts are interpreted. Information given and received is dependant on how successful the communication is conveyed. Communication in a courtroom involves several participants, similar to a theatrical play. The main participants, or characters, are the Judge, the jury, the plaintiff’s attorney, the defendant’s attorney, the plaintiff, the defendant, court stenographer and witnesses. This paper will discuss communication techniques largely used by the attorneys. After all, who are best actors? When does communication start?
The communication process begins when potential jurors are summoned by written communication through the United States Postal System to attend court for jury selection. Each juror is directed to the appropriate courtroom through verbal communication by court officers. Once inside the courtroom, the court clerk verbally calls out each jurors name to complete attendance. Jurors raise their hands to acknowledge their presence. A written questionnaire is distributed to each juror to complete while simultaneously viewing a video covering the history of jury duty. Judge’s Introduction
The Judge verbally introduces himself. As a form of introduction, the Judge then visually and verbally directs the jurors’ attention towards the court clerk, the stenographer, the court officers, and the attorneys representing the plaintiff and defendant. After introducing key players in the courtroom, the Judge gives a brief overview of how jury duty has been conducted throughout history. Rules and procedures of the court are verbally reviewed and presented to all jurors by the Judge. This communication process informs the jurors what to expect and allows them to feel comfortable and at ease. Jury Selection (Voir Dire)
The second process of a court trial proceeding is jury selection. Jury selection is also referred to as voir dire. An attorney’s goal during the voir dire process is to get to know the jury, their experiences, and any bias or prejudices which may influence their responsibility as jurors to reach a verdict. The attorney’s other goal during this process is to educate and persuade the jury regarding the facts of the case. For both goals to be accomplished, appropriate and effective communication skills between the attorney and jurors are important.
Questions presented by the attorney to the jurors include, but are not limited to: age, marital status, employment history, hobbies, volunteer activities, religious beliefs, and education. The attorney must present these questions to the jury with thoughtful and planned verbal communication. (Blackman & Brickman, 2010) While asking these questions, words such as prejudice, bias and stereotype should be avoided. “Instead, focus on more neutral words like ‘discomfort’.” (Blackman & Brickman, 2010) This period of questioning, during the voir dire process, is an important stage of communication between the attorney and the jurors. Gender and race related prejudices are unacceptable to society; jurors will not openly admit their prejudices. The prosecutor and defense attorney must consciously select words which will offer jurors an opportunity to share their concerns. Carefully chosen words are demonstrated in the following expert. (Blackman & Brickman, 2010) “My client is an African American man. Sometimes people have strong feelings about certain groups of people that can get in the way of rendering a fair and impartial verdict. Or, some people may feel uncomfortable about a case in which an African American man is accused of attacking a white woman. Or, there may be other aspects of this case – having nothing to do...
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