The Turning Point

IMG_0497Constantine Stanislavski refers to “The Magic of If” in his book An Actor Prepares. Here Stanislavski instructs acting students to put themself into the emotion of their part by imagining what it is like “if” they (are in the same situation their part places them in). Putt ing our self in the “what if”  situation allows a natural emotional spontaneity to emerge.

A few years ago I read an article in the King County Bar Association Bar Bulletin: Daniel Dugan, The Turning Point (March 2015) at 14-15, where Duggan a Trial Consultant discusses “The Turning Point.” Duggan teaches “The Turning Point” is a story telling technique using “counterfactual thinking.” “Counterfactual thinking is a technique where you ask a person to describe the opposite of the situation they are in now.” Id. at 15.

A counterfactual question “elicits rich responses revealing motivation, emotion and a glimpse at a person’s view of fate or destiny.” Id. Duggan goes on to reason that counterfactual reasoning by jurors allows them to see the case from our client’s perspective.

To illustrate Duggan suggests we invite the jury to imagine how our client’s life would be if her injury had not occurred: “Well to understand this ladies and gentlemen you will hear from Katie’s  [lay witness] who will tell you Katie’s life would  be… .”  This allows for two story lines-one a life with injury, and two a life without injury. “The gap between these two story lines will now appear huge and graphic.” Id.

And the jury goes from the typical mindset of does Katie deserve X amount of money to I get it X amount of money will get Katie’s life back on track. The jury’s verdict becomes the “tool that jurors use to make one life out of the two paths that lay before…[Katie] at the time of [her injury.]” Id. Although her injury forced Katie down her life changing path, the jurors can get Katie back on track because “they understand what it will take to do that.” Id.

Combining Stanislavski’s “if” with Duggan’s  “counterfactual thinking” allows jurors a unique perspective and gives them the tool to fill the gap between the two lives.

 

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