Friday, June 28, 2013

Don’t Discount the Power of Body Language!

The jurors who convicted Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell of first-degree murder in May of this year commented not only on the gruesome photographs they were required to view, but also on the demeanor of the defendant. As one juror put it, it was difficult to look at Dr. Gosnell in the courtroom: “He just sat there for the past eight weeks, smirking.”

Body language and facial expressions are powerful. Jurors stare at your client/s for hours on end, and quite naturally form impressions based on what they see. In the above referenced case, Dr. Gosnell may not have thought he was smirking. He may have no awareness of how his facial expressions come across.

Recently I worked with a witness who has a decided “chin drift,” that is to say he holds his chin up, such that it looks like he’s peering down his nose at the world, an arrogant posture. This is not an arrogant individual, he just has poor posture, which in his case leads to his chin drifting skyward. But I had to help him correct his body language so that the jurors, who believe what they see, would not automatically categorize the witness as arrogant, and therefore perceive him to be unsympathetic.

The best way I know to address body language and facial expression issues with a witness, is through the medium of video-taped role play. When a witness sees his/her body language, and is informed as to what it conveys, it’s much easier for the witness to make the necessary adjustments. Often, these are small adjustments, yet they are crucial.

You need every card you can think of stacked your way to win your case!


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