Potential Topics for the Criminal-Defense Skunkworks

Here are a few ideas I’ve had for subjects that our criminal-defense skunkworks could inquire into:

  1. Facial emotion recognition as a tool in trial (see Unmasking the Face: A Guide to Recognizing Emotions From Facial Expressions);
  2. Turning the tables: criminal-interrogation techniques in cross examination (see Criminal Interrogation And Confessions);
  3. Applying the lessons of aikido to trial (see Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere: An Illustrated Introduction);
  4. Mitigation experts in non-capital cases.

These are subjects that I’ve given a little thought to, but that I think could use some in-depth research and experimentation. There’s a whole universe of other things that we’ve been widely ignoring that might make us better advocates for our clients.

Even if you’re not interested in joining the skunkworks yourself, please drop me a comment and tell me what subjects you think might be productively studied.

8 responses to “Potential Topics for the Criminal-Defense Skunkworks”

  1. I’m the wrong guy to participate (lots of reasons), but I’d suggest dramaturgy (with perhaps some special study of Aristotle’s Poetics) and acting.

    Court (like teaching and public speaking) is, after all, a species of theater.

  2. Independent of your project, I’ve taken up studying biochemistry, as I feel that understanding how the body works is essential for understanding the nuances of DUI and drug crime defense. I’ve also began studying cryptography in some detail, and although it’s not really related to criminal defense, I’ve noticed that it seems to have dramatically increased my eye for detail at work, which I suppose is a good thing. I think the skunkworks idea is pretty solid and I look forward to seeing what kind of developments it produces. Keep up the good work.

  3. Mark;

    We in our Austin / San Antonio workshop group have been doing this since we started. We incorporate very new and different things that help us increase the odds of winning by the simple use of techniques we are all learning on an ongoing basis.

    Far beyond psychodrama is another method of winning,, that of using the entire 7,, not 5 senses.

    I am in Florida getting ready to try a case using the 6th and seventh sense. We just completed the operating doctor’s deposition and all of a sudden,, the stage comes alive and although this is a PI case,, we are using the techniques we work on.

    We use many techniques that are unacceptable to those in the culture of our background,, and guess what,, caveman bring fire,, natives restless.

    I can only say this,, what we are doing is working.. Keep experimenting,, the tools and advanced techniques are out there and ready to be used to win for our clients.

    May your day be filled with joy and may you find happiness in your journey of self discovery,, but be careful,, you may have already found what you’re looking for,, then all there is left to do is play,


    Paul J. Smith

  4. Off Topic, but would like to “share”: There is a first for everything and yes sometimes fact is stranger than fiction. Without getting too specific, about three hours ago I I just wrapped up refereeing a three day Criminal Trial on Guilt and Punishment.

    Last night at about the same time 7:30 PM, the Jury Found the defendant Guilty.

    Tonight, after a full blown “punishment” hearing, the jury came back with what can only be described as a :NOT GUILTY PUNISHMENT VERDICT:

    ME: ” Mr. Jury Foreman it is my understanding the Jury has reached a unanimous verdict on punishment – is that correct?”

    J.F. ” Yes your honor”.

    ME: “Please tender the verdict form to the Bailiff and he will hand same to me.

    Me: Will the Defendant please stand”. (reading the verdict to myself first before going audible: Hmm, OK, lets see here…blah, blah, blah, OK – no fine…Now lets go to…blah, blah, wait – WHAT?! – having found the defendant guilty of the criminal offense of “Y ” we the jury assess his confinement at 0 (ZERO) – and – (me flipping the page): WHAT? : hereby PROBATE SAID SENTENCE!

    ME: “Retire the Jury – lawyers please approach.

    Lets just say about 30 minutes later a plea agreement was reached and appeal waived…..

    Judge Larry Standley – my first Not Guilty Punishment Verdict!!

  5. I find that chess and studying chess strategy helps me during many trials (it also helps in the preparation for trial). I also find learning narrative stories (bible stories and family history) helps me in coming up with illustrations to use to develop themes during trial.

    I am interested in joining you on this journey, if you would have me.

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