Report about the spence trial college

Well, I’m back from Wyoming and the Spence Trial College. There were fifty four students in attendance. This is a good class in that almost all of them have been to regional seminars and had a good idea what to expect, especially regarding psycho-drama. The previous graduates who were instructors were people I knew and have worked with. Dana Cole was there along with Nelson Tyrone, Joey Lowe, Brooks Cutter and others who were experienced teachers. On Monday Dana did an excellent demonstration of cross examination and we had work shops after that. The boss arrived Tuesday morning to give a demonstration of voir dire with work shops that date. Tuesday night I gave a talk on trial from advocacy to voir dire, opening, direct, cross and final argument. I had some excellent video clips of Gerry that I showed. The next  morning Josh Karton conducted the communications discussion and as always was masterful. I never fail to learn from him and others at the college even though I’m supposed to be teaching. The rest of the week involved practicing the skills. so here a few notes about the week.

I always enjoy Josh Karton’s teaching techniques. In trying to help a student give an opening statement with some drama and gestures, but a factual one Josh used his movie technique. He was trying to teach the student to give a factual opening and not include conclusions such as "the driver wasn’t looking" or "the driver wasn’t paying attention." Instead, to describe  what the person did that would allow the jury to draw those conclusions. In addition, the description has to be in the present tense – as if it were happening now. It should also be in the first person – as if it were happening to the speaker. Here’s how he had the student practice giving only a factual account:

Josh sat next to the student as if they were looking ahead at a movie screen. He told the student he was a blind grandfather who is at the movies with his grand son. The grandson’s job is to describe to the grandfather what is happening in the movie as it happens. He can only tell him what is seen and heard in the movie, without adding conclusions of the grandson.  Facts without conclusions. He cannot give his conclusion that someone is afraid but rather describe what he sees that indicate someone is afraid. He is not allowed to draw the conclusion a person is a police officer if it isn’t in the movie. Instead, he has to describe the person wearing a uniform, with gun and badge. Further, the description has to flow like movie would play out on the screen. The result is that the student learned how to give a proper opening statement.

Another beneficial area involved role reversal techneques taught by the psychodrama instructor. It’s such an important skill to learn in order to be a great tria lawyer. Re-creation skills are also taught and this too is a skill every trial lawyer should know as well as practice. Some of the techneques of  neuro-linquistic programing are also helpful in regard to both of these and should also be familiar to lawyers. In the 1920’s great lawyers like Earl Rogers were using rereation in the court room to win cases. These are not new, but they do require some practice to learn right.

That’s a brief report of a couple things you might find of interest. Gerry is 81 years old and is still an impressive human being. I always enjoy my time talking to him. You should consider attending the next regional seminar. The next one in Washington will be at Leavenworth starting March 24th, 2011.

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