Campfires, Car Accidents, and the Cosmos: Persuasive Appeals to Jurors Through the Human Appetite for Wonder

June 01, 2017

That story-telling is key to an opening statement – and thereafter to success at trial – should not be questioned.  This article encourages rich narrative story-design and story-telling, drawing on decades of research as well as experience and intuitive understanding of persuasion theory.  The thesis is best explained by the author:

If a trial lawyer wishes to gain their jury’s attention and try to hold it, it behooves the lawyer to conceive of wonder as a part of, and a byproduct of, good storytelling. Wonder should be defined broadly for the sake of good, transportive storytelling. In campfires, car accidents, and the cosmos we find three guideposts pointing the trial lawyer toward the wonder of that which is mesmerizing, morbid, and magnificent. The trial lawyer should aim for these three broadly-conceived levels of wonder.

Law students studying trial advocacy, lawyers, and those who report on trials and need to understand effective litigation techniques, are all appropriate audiences for this mesmerizing [but not morbid] article.  Get rid of the “and the next witness will tell you” and bring the jury to the campfire.


4 Stetson J. Advoc. & L. 54 (2017)