Communication in the Courtroom
and the "Appearance" of Justice
University of Iowa
When the jury revealed its verdict on Charles Ingram, he made no response other than pursing his lips and slightly shaking his head. But his wife reached down and took her husband's hand. Whittock also made no response when he too was found guilty but kept his hands clasped on the table in front of him. Later when the jury returned with its verdict on Diana Ingram her appearance remained unchanged but her husband once again slightly shook his head. The Times [of London] 7 April 2003.
It has long been known that non-typical verbal and nonverbal behaviors by a defendant or witness in a criminal or civil case often are interpreted by judges and juries as evidence of guilt or untrustworthiness (Blanck, Rosenthal, & Cordell, 1985). The behaviors known to be associated with a lack of credibility and dishonesty are the shifty eye, shuffling feet, hesitancy in tone of voice, lack of expected emotion, and inconsistencies among verbal and nonverbal messages (Hickson, Stacks, & Moore, 2003).
Outside of the courtroom, however, these same non-typical verbal and nonverbal behaviors, even produced by these same individuals, may be interpreted as eccentric, humorous and perfectly appropriate in their context. This simple observation frames the core message of this chapter: specifically, interpretations of verbal and nonverbal be- 41