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Jury Trials and the Popularization of Legal Language

A Discourse Analytical Approach


Patrizia Anesa

This book explores the techniques and discursive strategies that are typical of the communicative interactions between professionals and laymen in a jury trial. It also investigates the complex relationship that emerges between written and oral communication in different phases of the trial. The analysis takes into account the many nuances that define these dynamics and the various possibilities that the jurors have to intervene in the process, particularly in the light of recent procedural developments. Special attention is devoted to the observation of the specific strategies adopted to illustrate legal ideas and concepts to the jurors according to the speakers’ various communicative purposes. By adopting a discourse analytical perspective which combines both qualitative and quantitative approaches, the book highlights the hybridity of the language used in court and the combination of different styles and registers.


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4. Communication processes in jury trials 83


4. Communication processes in jury trials The Duchess: Be what you would seem to be – or, if you’d like it put more simply – never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise. Alice: I think I should understand that better, if I had it written down: but I can’t quite follow it as you say it. (Lewis Carroll) 4.1 The legal system No analysis of communication processes can be alienated from the so- cio-legal system within which it develops, as they are inevitably high- ly intertwined. Judicial systems around the world16 are characterized by several substantial (inter alia procedural) variations and, conse- quently, the specific procedure of a trial is inextricable from a specific system. As mentioned above, the focus of this study is on one specific trial (California vs Westerfield), which allows us to focus exclusively on the U.S. system, and on one specific jurisdiction. On a more specific note, even though the broader expression ‘Anglo-American system’ is sometimes employed, the term ‘Ameri- can system’ (or, more specifically, ‘U.S. system’) will be preferred here, given the peculiarities that typify the U.S. system in relation to other Anglo-Saxon countries. A comprehensive introduction to the American legal system would go beyond the scope of this work, but some specific areas of U.S. law will be addressed, with particular ref- erence to criminal...

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