Actions Speak Louder Than Words: Thematic Framing Using the Pozner Chapter Method
Updated: May 28
By Clayton T. Robertson (Criminal Defense / Civil Rights Attorney)
I attended a recent National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) conference in San Diego. One of the speakers, Randi McGinn, is a well-known civil plaintiff's trial attorney. I bought her book ("Changing Laws, Saving Lives") after the conference.
At one point in her book, she incorporates a metaphor ("actions speak louder than words") into a "chapter" of questions that nicely frames the topic. In her example, it was in the cross examination of an expert. This is clever because it combines a theme/frame within a particular sequence of questions.
By way of background, using the Pozner method, a "chapter" of cross-examination questions is a group of questions related to a specific topic or sub-topic. A cross examination contains a series of "chapters" arranged in a particular order in an effort to tell your story or support your side through the witness.
So, applied to criminal defense, an example of a series of questions to a detective in an "inadequate investigation" chapter of questions might be the following:
Attorney: "Detective, you've heard of the phrase 'actions speak louder than words'?"
Attorney: "What that means is that, if you really want to know the truth, you should look at what a person does rather than what they say?"
Answer: "I guess that's right."
Attorney: "You testified today to certain matters in response to the prosecutor's questions. But I'd like to talk with you about what you did or didn't do to investigate the incident after it allegedly occurred."
Attorney: "You told the jury today that _________?
Attorney: "But you didn't _________?"
Attorney: "You also didn't __________?"
"You didn't interview __________?"
"You didn't follow up with _________?"
"You never reviewed __________?"
"You didn't consider __________?"
"You're assuming ___________?"
"In one part of your report, you state __________?"
"In another part of your report, you state _________?"
"But today you testified __________?"
This is one of many examples of combining different techniques for an effective presentation to a jury. Here, it means using metaphors, themes, or "frames" within a section of a cross examination to get your point across.