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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The witness in court : problems of demeanor in the courtroom setting Wilder, Gillian M.


The concern of this thesis is to discover some of the basic principles which structure interaction in the courtroom. The data on which the analysis is based consists of material collected by observation in the Magistrates' Courts. Various "rules" which structure social interaction in general are examined as to their relevance to courtroom interaction and problems related to the presentation of self of lay participants in court. It is first proposed that various of these "rules" are subject to violation in the courtroom. These violations facilitate the purposes of the court in that they make it possible for witnesses' arguments to be examined exhaustively. The effects of these violations on witnesses demeanor, considering the specific setting of the court, are described and analysed. Following this, the attributes of “proper demeanor”, defined as demeanor acceptable to other participants, for lay witnesses in the courtroom are isolated and examples given of witnesses who failed to show these attributes during their appearances in court. An analysis is presented of the process of categorization of these witnesses as unfit interactants by professional courtroom participants, and the consequences of these categorizations for the witnesses. Those who failed to show "proper demeanor" are contrasted with witnesses whose appearances in court were more successful. Finally, the kinds of explanations and arguments which are put forward as part of the presentation of self by lay participants in court are examined with particular reference to whether or not they are seen as appropriate by lay and professional participants.

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