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Module 25: Breaking Down the Fourth Wall


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Module 25: Breaking Down the Fourth Wall

  1. 1. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall V. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall – “The fourth wall” is an expression evolving from the world of theater. In most modern theater design, a room will consist of three physical walls, as well as an imaginary fourth that serves to separate the world of the characters from that of the audience. – Speaking directly to, otherwise acknowledging or doing something to the audience through this imaginary wall is known as “breaking the fourth wall.”
  2. 2. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall – What can “breaking the fourth wall” teach us about connecting with the jury? – As I was sitting in acting class one afternoon, a thought occurred to me. What if we were to view the jury as participants in the trial as opposed to mere spectators sitting high up in the raptors looking on at a distance? – In other words, what if we were to draw the jury into sharing the re-constructed reality of past events, so that they could “see” what happened, even though they were not actually present to witness the original event?
  3. 3. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall – The inspiration for this unconventional way of looking at the jury comes from the world of acting. – Let me explain.
  4. 4. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall – As actors, we must be creative all the time. After all, our job is to make art. Our art is a living thing and it is bound up with truth and reality and humanity, and the theater. – The theater is full of hope, full of artistic illusions, full of imagination, and people. – We can encourage the audience to use their imaginations and they can become a creative presence there along with us.
  5. 5. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall – But it is far better when everyone is active and alive in the imaginary world. – Why? Because the exchange between the actors and the audience is shared; not just a one-sided assault from the stage.
  6. 6. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall – By making the jury part of this re-constructed reality, the trial will come alive to them in ways that you may never have never dreamed possible. – For starters, they will become more engaged and filter the events through that reality. If successful, the jury will feel like they have “seen” the events in question at the trial, even though those events were re-constructed through testimony, not actually present in the courtroom.
  7. 7. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall – How can we draw the jury into a reconstructed reality of past events? – By allowing them to make “discoveries.” Discoveries are far more powerful than any amount of coaxing or cajoling. – Why? A persuasive argument may make the jurors say “okay” or “you win,” but a discovery makes them say, “Of course,” or better yet, “I knew it.”
  8. 8. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall –Example: Picture a trial about a traffic accident at an intersection. The plaintiff testifies that the defendant ran a red light and hit him in the crosswalk. The cross- examining defense attorney can adopt one of two tactics. First, she can try and get the plaintiff to admit that the light was green and that he should have waited until the light turned red before crossing intersection.
  9. 9. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall – This tactic will quickly turn argumentative with the defense attorney insisting, “The light was green, correct?” and the plaintiff flatly denying it with a chorus of, “No. It was red.” – On the other hand, if the cross-examining defense attorney points out that the plaintiff previously brought four similar lawsuits, she is essentially applying the principle of discovery.
  10. 10. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall – In that case, the discovery is as clear as day: “Yes, of course you claim that the light was red, and that is to be expected, because you always say that when you want money.”
  11. 11. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall – Applying the principle of discovery packs a one-two punch: it allows the jury to resolve the inconsistent statement while remaining true to the story, effectively turning the plaintiff into an unwitting ally.
  12. 12. Breaking Down the Fourth Wall • Warning: Allowing the jury to enter the re- constructed reality and to make discoveries may be unsettling at first. And for good reason – lawyers like to be in control. • The idea of handing over the reigns to a jury during the course of trial is like riding the tallest and fastest roller coaster in the world – backwards!