ERIC Number: ED252057
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1982-Jul
Reference Count: 0
Discourse Rights of Witnesses: Their Circumscription in Trial. Sociolinguistic Working Paper Number 95.
Walker, Anne Graffam
Court trials are formalized disputes in which the parties are denied confrontation and have restrictions placed on their rights to tell the story. The rights of telling are part of discourse rights, and in the courtroom they are circumscribed by attorneys' objections to either the other attorneys' questions or the witnesses' answers. This can be seen in the record of conduct of a three-hour misdemeanor trial in which 32 objections were voiced. The record indicates that most witnesses are not prepared for the degree to which their discourse rights will be abrogated in a courtroom, and the orderliness of a witness' story can be disrupted, restricted, or halted by any of three managers of his story: his own attorney, the opposing attorney, or the Court. In this trial, the witness whose testimony was the longest and was disrupted the least was a newly graduated law student prepared for the manner in which her discourse rights were to be abrogated. If a trial is a conflict between two narratives, each vying for ratification as true, it is the business of each attorney to make his storytellers as believable as possible. Witnesses who know the rules of courtroom talk can say the same set of facts in a very different way and be much more persuasive in court. (MSE)
Publication Type: Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Sponsor: National Inst. of Education (ED), Washington, DC.
Authoring Institution: Southwest Educational Development Lab., Austin, TX.