STORYTELLING AND LAW AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE

There are many layers of storytelling in law as well as in criminal justice told through a myriad of oral and written narratives (Sutherland, 2011). Suspects and witnesses tell stories to the police. The police tell stories to prosecutors. Clients tell stories to their lawyers. For example, a client may tell her lawyer that her husband abused her and that she had to kill him to preserve her life. Another client may tell his lawyer that he was at the murder scene, but he did not rape and kill the victim. Another client may tell her lawyer that she had to forge a check in order to feed her children. Then, lawyers tell these stories to their partners. Lawyers tell stories when examining and cross-examining witnesses, as the '‘story is the most persuasive technique known” (MacArthy, 2007). Lawyers also tell stories to judges and jurors.

The most important source of law' in the common law' tradition is the case (judicial decision)[1]. The case is a narrative of facts carefully selected by the judge that tells a story of a dispute involving, at least, two people. The case also includes a selection and analysis of the relevant law' applicable to those facts also crafted in narrative form. Finally, the case includes a conclusion w'here the judge resolves the dispute according to whom he or she thinks is right.

Many of the landmark cases tell fundamental stories of human life. They revolve around issues that are of central importance to people such as life and death, the origins of life, the end of human life, the killing of human beings, the right to defend oneself and others, religion freedoms, and other essential human rights. In order to decide these cases, judges delve into philosophical questions that may exceed the traditional boundaries of the legal discipline. In many instances, judges narrate these stories in intensely dramatic terms. For example, R. v. Dudley and Stephens, the 1884 leading case from the United Kingdom that established that necessity is not a defense to murder, vividly recounts the adventures of shipwrecked crew' that commits cannibalism in order to survive.

Almost all cases, even those that are not considered landmarks, are in essence stories about human life, conflict, and misery. Although criminal law is probably the area of law that narrates the most interesting stories, every other legal area—from property law to tax law—also tells stories (Hermida, 2018). Even legal documents that never make then way to the courts tell stories. For example, contracts tell the stories of buyers and sellers acquiring goods and services. Wills tell stories of unfaithful husbands, ungrateful children, or materialistic widows. Tax returns tell stories of people and corporations earning income through their professions and businesses and a greedy government taking a cut of those earnings.

Similarly, criminal justice reports, documents, and policies are also replete with stories. For example, the risk assessment report prepared by a parole office in the preparation of a parole hearing tells the story of the offender’s criminal and social history, the role of alcohol or dings in the offender’s criminal behavior, the offender’s attitude of indifference to the criminal behavior, and its impact on the victim. It may also tell the story of violence or abuse of family members, participation in treatment programs, and mental health status. It also tells the story of the offender’s institutional

the Cape of Good Hope, and were compelled to put into an open boat belonging to the said yacht. That in this boat they had no supply of water and no supply of food, except two 1 lb. tins of turnips, and for 3 days they had nothing else to subsist upon. That on the fourth day they caught a small turtle, upon which they subsisted for a few days, and this was the only food they had up to the twentieth day when the act now m question was committed. That on the twelfth day the turtle was entirely consumed, and for the next 8 days they had nothing to eat. That the}' had no fresh water, except such ram as they from tune to time caught in then' oilskin capes. That the boat was drifting on the ocean, and was probably more than 1000 miles away from land. That on the eighteenth day, when they had been 7 days without food and five without water, the prisoners spoke to Brooks as to what should be done if no succor came, and suggested that someone should be sacrificed to save the rest, but Brooks dissented, and the boy, to whom they were tinderstood to refer, was not consulted. That on the July, 24, the day before the act now in question, the prisoner Dudley proposed to Stephens and Brooks that lots should be cast who should be put to death to save the rest, but Brooks refused consent, and it was not put to the boy, and in point of fact there was no drawing of lots. That on that day the prisoners spoke of their having families, and suggested it would be better to kill the boy that their lives should be saved, and Dudley proposed that if there was no vessel in sight by tlie morrow morning the boy should be killed. That next day, the July, 25, no vessel appearing, Dudley told Brooks that he had better go and have a sleep, and made signs to Stephens and Brooks that the boy had better be killed. The prisoner Stephens agreed to the act, but Brooks dissented from it. That the boy was then lying at the bottom of the boat quite helpless, and extremely weakened by famine and by dunking sea water, and unable to make any resistance, nor did he ever assent to his being killed. The prisoner Dudley offered a prayer asking forgiveness for them all if either of them shotild be tempted to commit a rash act, and that their souls might be saved. That Dudley, with the assent of Stephens, went to the boy, and telling him that his time was come, put a knife into his throat and killed lum then and there; that the three men fed upon the body and blood of the boy for 4 days; that on the fourth day after the act had been committed the boat was picked up by a passing vessel, and the prisoners were rescued, still alive, but in the lowest state of prostration...”

behavior or the offender’s behavior during temporary absences, the release plan, evidence of change, and efforts aimed at mitigating the risk factors.

  • [1] ‘In civil law, both the Codes and the work of atithors that interpret the codes and other legislation assume the role of telling the mam stories. 2 “On July 5,1884, the prisoners, Thomas Dudley and Edward Stephens, with one Brooks, all able-bodied English seamen, and the deceased also an English boy, between 17 and 18 years of age, the crew of an English yacht, a registered English vessel, were cast away in a storm on the high seas 1600 miles from
 
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