Putting your client in a pullover sweater and having him speak like Liberace is not effective trial advocacy

Excellent trial advocacy requires thoughtful preparation. Careful construction. The art of advocacy is the art of persuasion through telling your story. Here is an example of what NOT to do.

For those of you following the case from Jacksonville: here is the video of Michael Dunn testifying in his own defense at his murder trial.

Pedantic. Disjointed. Meandering. Sad that all this time to prepare to testify for your client’s life, and that’s all you could come up with for this jury.

The attorney fumbled over the questions, as if he wrote an outline out that morning over his cereal. His line of questioning was poorly organized, his questions too wordy and confusing (not to mention continually leading), and his tone and tempo were flat and uncompelling.

Dunn’s answers were curt, erudite, and seemed to surprise the attorney at times (once he asked Dunn what the word “incredulous” meant, asking him to define it “for my own ignorance”). The defense story was lost in the jumble of questions.

He was emotionless – Dunn did not show a bit of emotion until an entire hour into his testimony. He expressed a very fake air of sheepishness – as if would somehow he could make people think he was a meek little man being picked in by “thugs” (his word, not mine).

In my opinion, he will be convicted – he was not convincing that he acted in self-defense. Sadly, may very well have.

I guess preparing the client for testifying was not on the trial prep to-do list. If poor advocacy was a recognized issue for ineffective assistance of counsel, this would be ground 1. After all, if your client defended his own life with a gun, the least you could do would be to defend it with excellence in advocacy.

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