I have not followed the Amanda Knox proceedings in Italy, but I was curious what she would say to the jury in her personal statement at the conclusion of the case. The media reported she had been working on it for months and I wondered what she might say. What follows is a brief excerpt. For the full translation (she spoke in Italian) see: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/10/03/video-and-translation-of-knoxs-statement-in-italian-court/
“It’s been said many times that I am different from how I appear, that I am a different person, after time it’s hard to understand who I am. I am afraid.
Okay. I am the same person that I was four years ago, the same person, the only thing that distinguishes me from four years ago is what I have suffered. In four years I lost a friend in the most brutal and inexplicable manner possible. My absolute faith in the authority of the police has been betrayed. I’ve had to cope with absolutely unjust accusations, elusive, without foundation, and I am paying with my life for things I did not commit…
I want to return home, to my life, I don’t want to be punished, deprived of my future for something that I didn’t do. Because I am innocent, Raffaele is innocent, and we deserve freedom because we didn’t do anything wrong.
I have great respect for this court and the attention you had in this trial, and so I thank you and all I ask for is justice.”
I quote this to illustrate how she used the personal pronoun “I” over and over in her statement. Everything she said was about her. If I had coached her about what to say to this Italian jury I would have told her to change the entire emphasis to “you” rather than “I.” Human nature is such that we all are far more concerned about ourselves then we are about others. Dale Carnegie taught us this in his famous 1936 book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” He wrote that one important step in that process was to focus on the other person instead of ourselves. He said we should:
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
- Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.
Keenan and Ball make this clear in their writings about “reptile advocacy” when they discuss the importance of getting the jurors to think of themselves when viewing what happened to the plaintiff. You want them to think “there but for the grace of God go I.” The trial has to be about them, their family and their community, not just this individual plaintiff.
In her case that would involve creating a picture that if she could be convicted on such flimsy evidence everyone is at risk. That involves a discussion of setting community standards as well as the importance of this case being watched internatonally. Jurors all want to be part of something important and setting standards for Italian criminal trials is a matter of international importance in this case.
In addition, another principle of human nature I believe should have been recognized by her in her talk. This too, is a principle Carnegie advocates in his best selling book. It is the importance of praise and expressing appreciation as well as complimenting the other person. Knox’s few words of praise and appreciation at the end of her talk to the jury is insufficient, in my view. She should have used praise & compliments for the jury with an acknowledgement of full confidence in their fairness. Jurors want to be part of something important. They also want to do the right thing and in this case that would mean aquittal.
In summary, I would have recommend that her statement be from the very opposite perspective from what she chose. Not from the perspective of “me” but rather from the perspective of “you.” Her statement was a claim of innocence and discusssion of the impact on her of the charges. I think it should have been one focused on the interests of the jurors with praise and appreciation for their attention as well as confidence in their doing the right thing in this very important case to the Italian justice system
While I don’t think her statement to the jury is the turning point in the trial, I would have expected her lawyer to instruct her on such basic principles of persuasion given the importance of her talk. On the other hand, a trial is a battle of impression and not logic so the impresssion she made is far more significant than the words she spoke.