Final Argument: Finding the Stories

Written by Roy Black

“…the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin.

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Imagining the 21st Century Law School

Written by Roy Black

The perfect school for litigation sits on the corner of 57th street and Seventh Avenue in mid-town Manhattan. It is called Carnegie Hall and unfortunately it is dedicated to music rather than law.

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Voir Dire: 2014

Written by Roy Black

We started the first trial in my law school class. The initial exercise was jury selection. I coached the students while they were standing in front of the jury box doing the exercise and later I sent the following notes to them:

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Bulldogging in Miami

Written by Roy Black

Naturally I read the legal commentary following Nel’s cross of Pistorius. Most lawyers were critical, labeling Nel’s sarcasm and bullying as argumentative and thus objectionable in a US court. While I generally agree with those observations, it appears there is a place for bulldogging.

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Be Like LeBron

Written by Roy Black

Last night I watched the Miami Heat crush the Indiana pacers to win the Eastern Conference Finals. This victory was notable for two reasons: the Pacers were designed to beat the Heat and their defense specifically created to stop LeBron James.

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Risky Business

Written by Roy Black

At the last NBA All-Star game SAP unveiled a player-efficiency software program called SportVU. It records every movement of a player during a game. It plots 792,000 data points — shooting, rebounding, defensive efficiency, spacing on the court, speed, and dribbling. By crunching these numbers it predicts the most effective combination of players and reduces the coach’s risk.

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The “Bull Dog” Cross

Written by Roy Black

In the beginning I had little interest in the Oscar Pistorius trial; only after reading descriptions of Gerrie “The Bull Dog” Nel’s cross-examination of Pistorius (OP) did I pay attention. The skill of cross examination is something I am intensely interested in and Nel failed to disappoint me. I could teach a seminar using his technique.

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The Lament of Zachary Warren

Written by Roy Black

Zachary Warren was a master of the universe. At least the legal universe. At 29 a Stanford degree, a magna cum laude graduate of Georgetown Law School, a clerkship at the Sixth Circuit and a job at the Wall Street titan Dewey & LeBoeuf. But this legal prodigy made a bonehead mistake any grizzled veteran of the criminal bar educated at a third rate law school would have prevented. He talked to a prosecutor without a lawyer.

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Cross Examination: The Sympathetic Yet Deadly Witness

Written by Roy Black

The challenge – how to cross examine, impeach or even just diminish the impact of sympathetic witnesses without losing your audience?

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Richard Sharpstein: A Tape Surfaces

Written by Roy Black

In my post about Richard’s particular skill in presenting final arguments, I lamented there was no video tape of his courtroom performances. Fortunately I was partially wrong: Dore Louis, an excellent criminal defense lawyer and friend, emailed me an audio clip of a Sharpstein final argument.

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