The big Casey Anthony trial, what some have called the trial of the decade, has been underway now for some time. It’s being broadcast live on the Internet and archives are also available with a little digging. At this writing, the prosecution is still presenting its case.
When I practiced law I worked primarily on corporate and business matters, with a few opportunities to be in court. Nonetheless, once and awhile I’d invest some free time in observing trials that litigation partners were handling. I always admired the unique combination of legal knowledge, psychological acumen, and communication ability that great trial lawyers possess.
While watching some of the Anthony trial, I picked out a few practices that I found particularly interesting, each of which have nothing to do with the facts at issue. I’m curious as to what the trial lawyers out there think about these observations.
1. Prosecution witnesses always face the jury to answer a question. Frequently, these witnesses will noticeably pause, wait a second, and then turn their entire body to face the jury before giving an answer. Their body language is communicating “trust me”, “listen closely to what I’m saying”, and “I believe what I’m telling you.” It seems to me that at some point that practice can be overdone, but I don’t think that’s been the case here – at least not yet.
2. Experts look the part. When experts are called to the stand, they approach slowly and authoritatively. I’m pretty sure I even spotted an expert armed with “expert stuff”- a trial bag (a prop?) that we’re supposed to imagine is filled with all sorts of important documents. The experts are confident, and they seem to use just enough jargon to give the appearance that they are operating with knowledge far superior to the rest of us, without being too aloof.
Expert: “We can see here that the framinstan has clearly become discombobulated, and that tells us there is a match to a 99.59% degree of mathematical certainty.
Prosecutor: “Can you restate that, in layman’s terms.”
Expert: “It’s her hair.”
The jury is left with the impression: can all that science be wrong? It sounds so official.
3. The accused is never “Casey” or “Casey Anthony.” As far as the prosecutors are concerned, it is “the defendant” or “Ms. Anthony.” One particularly persuasive detective took the stand and kept referring to the accused as “Casey,” unintentionally showing some familiarity, having spent a lot of time with her. This was much to the significant irritation of his prosecution inquisitor. The detective’s multiple casual references to “Casey” were sternly and immediately “corrected” to “Ms. Anthony.”
So – trial lawyers – are my observations on point, or am I ascribing significance to nonsense? Is there anything to learn here? What tactics have I missed?
I’d appreciate some feedback from our pros, both to learn and to enlighten my latest “reality TV” habit.