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Essay 4 – Jury Verdict

verdict_transUnit of discourse

rhetorical part: assertion, support, explanation

analogy: pull out your gun, load, aim and shoot

An assertion is like a gun. Anyone can pull one out and start waving it around. By itself, an assertion is an opinion, all talk, lots of fervent belief, but nothing else. To make it more persuasive, all you can do it raise your voice, wag the gun more wildly.

The support is the bullets. It’s what you load your gun with. A loaded gun is a lot more threatening. It can, potentially, do a lot more damage than the gun by itself.

However, to effectively communicate, you need to pull the trigger. No matter how good your gun and your bullets, you’re never going to hit your target unless you pull the trigger. Your target is your reader, and that’s a singular “reader”, on purpose. You cannot shoot everyone with a gun. It’s pretty much one at a time.

Same with an essay. Don’t try to write to “everyone”. Write to one specific person, one reader. You need to explain what you want your reader to get out of the evidence. Then it’s not just your opinion against someone else’s. It’s your substantiated, explained opinion, which is more persuasive and carries more weight than the opinions of those wagging their guns at each other.


Is Dominique Stevens guilty? Of what? More importantly, why? What causes you to say that she is bears a certain degree of culpability (responsibility or blame) for the death of her husband Donovan?


Guilty? Of what? Why?

Is Michael Davis guilty? Of what? More importantly, why? What causes you to say that he did or did not rape Ashley Williams? If so, what is his degree of culpability?

Rhetorical situation

You are a jury member in the trial of Dominique Stevens for the murder of her husband Donovan or the trial of Michael Davis for the rape of his girlfriend Ashley. You heard the claims or assertions of the prosecuting and defense attorneys about what they would prove. In support of those claims, you heard evidence during the examination and cross-examination of the witnesses. Finally, you heard the closing arguments explaining to you how to think about the evidence.

In the jury room, the foreperson took a straw poll that showed a split and no majority let alone unanimity concerning Dominique’s guilt: equal numbers for first degree and second degree murder, fewer for manslaughter. [Michael’s just yet-to-convene.] The foreperson has asked each of you to articulate your position by making your own claim about Dominique’s or Michael’s guilt, sifting through the evidence like a scientist, and then explaining how that evidence leads to your claim.

Your audience is the other jurors. It is also Dominique/Michael because all of you want to hold her/him more culpable than she/he feels and her/his attorneys argued for. You aren’t going to convince Dominique or Michael to see it your way. Your goal is to make her/him understand the evidence you found most persuasive and the verdict that evidence led you to.

Rhetorical mode

We, the jury, find the defendant ...

“We, the jury, find the defendant …”

This essay uses the cause-and-effect pattern. What factors caused you to reach your conclusion? Rank-order them strongest to weakest. In your essay, discuss them in one order or the other, either beginning with your strongest or building up to it. Make sure your audience understands how the causes relate to each other, aka transitions. Everyone is familiar with the evidence, so you don’t need to explain it in detail except as the details determined which evidence influenced you more and which influenced you less.

Your thesis statement will be near the beginning: Dominique/Michael is (not) guilty of … because ….

Your evidence is what you heard and saw during the trial and read in the affidavits and statements.

Your explanation is yours and yours alone, though it will probably have a lot of overlap with the explanations of other jurors.