“It’s integrity. If you don’t have integrity in your thoughts, it’s going to show. You’re going to come across as fake, and nobody wants to be associated with that.”
Victoria Rusk, a mitigation specialist and investigator from Houston, TX, credits the Trial Lawyers College’s In Defense of the Damned program with giving her the tools that enhance her civil case preparation and her strategy for consulting criminal defense attorneys. She helps clients understand what mitigation is and how the discovery and presentation of their background is critical to saving their life.
The TLC method teaches that if the jury perceives that an attorney is disconnected from or embarrassed about their client, the jury could adopt that bias and judge the client harshly. Drawing from this, Rusk feels that assessing the case and witnesses help a lawyer better understand their clients’ background.
When attorneys genuinely empathize with their clients, they can present their client’s mitigation story in a compelling way that helps jurors to overcome the feelings of anger stirred up by the prosecutor. Trial Lawyers College teaches lawyers to identify universal themes to be those many people can relate to, such as parenthood or significant loss.
“As a mitigation specialist, we meet people where they are.”
“It is the idea of just being yourself and connecting and being genuine and not just pretending to be genuine but being actually genuine...see how that actually works.”
This fall, former prosecutor Adam Murray enjoyed training at the Trial Lawyers College intensive five-day course in Shambhala, Colorado. Although he is not yet a TLC graduate, he describes his time at the TLC as a “life-changing experience.” After leaving the seminar, he determined that the tools provided an entirely different perspective that would benefit all aspects of trial preparation, beginning with Voir Dire.
“How can I be empowered to make sure that my client can get their story before the jury so that the right result happens?”
Being able to authentically connect with the jurors from the beginning of the process helps attorneys avoid seeming adversarial. It allows lawyers to work collaboratively with the jury and to practice the law while retaining their humanity.
Murray has since added a psychodrama room onto his office space for helping clients prepare for trial, so they would be better able to live out the critical moment on the stand. As they express their feelings regarding the experience, jurors can identify with the victim and their loss.