Date: 21 Jan 2009

Trial Argumentation: The Creation of Meaning

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Abstract

My purpose is to analyze lawyers creating meaning in three well-known cases in Anglo-American legal history: Commonwealth v. Woodward (1997) the famous Boston ‘nanny’ case, the O.J. Simpson Murder Trial (1995), and the John Peter Zenger Libel Case in Colonial New York (1734). In each case, creative lawyers were able to shift the question before the jury from the formal legal question—did Woodward and Simpson commit murder? Did Zenger publish libelous material?—to issues of vengeance and catharsis, and of the ability of the legal system to represent the community’s sense of justice.