The Power of Silence in the Courtroom
Minneapolis, MN employment law attorney Andrew Parker talks about his use of silences in the courtroom and the effect they have on certain cases.
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (612) 355-4100
Trials are interesting. Whether right or wrong, the key is to persuade and to convince a jury of your position. And it is very important the cadence of a trial. It is very important to use tone and spacing in a trial to emphasize certain points. A good example of this was in a case that I handled involving police excessive force for an African American man here in the Twin Cities. This was a number of years ago. The judge had thrown out all of the race allegations involved in the case. All we were left with was an excessive force allegation. I did ask the judge, who told me that if I raised race once during the trial he would call a mistrial. I asked him whether I could introduce my client to the jury, and he said, “Of course.”
So, in introducing my client to the jury toward the beginning of the case, I said, “This is my client. He was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1960.” And then I paused. And there was silence in the courtroom for an extended period of time because I wanted that fact – because it was really as far as I could go in light of the judge’s admonition – I wanted that fact to seep into the thinking of the jury when they viewed the rest of the facts and evidence as they came in over the next several days in the case. And I think that worked. It became one of the largest verdicts against a police department in Minnesota at the time, and I believe the largest punitive damage award resulted in that case in Minnesota in an excessive force matter against the police.