Narrative Style and Witness Testimony
Abstract This article is concerned with the relationship between a witness' narrative style and judgments of jurors based on that style. It takes as its starting point the Duke University Law and Language Project results that a witness using a narrative style is judged more credible than a witness using a fragmented style. The main argument of this article is that it is not the use of narrative per se, but rather a particular narrative style that is valued in the courtroom. Data from a day of testimony in a murder trial is used to demonstrate two opposing narrative styles in testimony: that of the law enforcement officer and that of some nonexpert witnesses. It is shown first that the style of the law enforcement officers differs from ordinary conversation in its extreme explicitness. It is hypothesized that jurors will associate this style of delivery with credibility. It is further hypothe-sized that witnesses will lose credibility to the extent that they deviate from this style. After demonstrating the differences in the styles, the article draws on experimental work of other researchers to suggest that trial outcomes can be affected by the narrative style of the witness. (Linguistics)
Published online: 04 August 2015
Applegate, J. L., & Delia, J. G.
Bennet, W. L., & Feldman, M. S.
Michaels, S., & Collins, J.
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