The past two chapters have shown how counsel manage to pursue a number of typically narrative mode discoursal strategies — construction of narrative, expression of subjectivity, focus on current context, appeal to intersubjective understanding — despite having to work within both a paradigmatically-defined remit set by the indictment and the anti-narrative discoursal constraints represented by the law of evidence and trial tradition. In highlighting these narrative mode strategies, though, we should not forget that many of the constraints on counsel (and witness) talk in the trial are designed to reduce possible prejudice against the defendant on the part of the jury. The restrictions on revealing the defendant’s criminal record, for example, are intended to reduce the risk of the jury simply acting on the narrative schema ‘once a criminal always a criminal’, which Wagenaar et al. (1993) show is as likely to influence judges as juries, while cross-examiners’ attempts to steer juries towards the ‘once a liar always a liar’ schema show just how necessary it is to curb their direct expression of judgement.
KeywordsReasonable Doubt Linguistic Feature Legal Instruction Discourse Marker Narrative Mode
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