Department or Program



In popular discourse, emotion is often considered antithetical to the supposed informed and fair decision making that characterizes law. Nonetheless, scholarship across psychology, sociology, legal studies, and political science demonstrate how emotions influence decision making, including jury decision making, as well as other forms of individual and social action. Consequently, it follows that lawyers may appeal to different types of emotion when constructing arguments and narratives for juries. Do attorneys strategically influence juries’ emotions in order to receive a favorable verdict? Whether lawyers utilize emotion to trigger certain outcomes is understudied. Indeed, federal rules constrain these types of appeals during jury trials. Nevertheless, existing studies offer a methodology to interpret trial transcripts to identify, code, and evaluate emotional appeals. Some existing scholarship demonstrates how trial transcripts reveal identifiable patterns in lawyers’ emotional appeals to juries. By conducting content analysis on eighteen jury trial transcripts from murder cases, while also incorporating confirmation from four interviews with practicing criminal attorneys, this thesis presents trends in how lawyers attempt to trigger angry and sympathetic emotional responses from juries. While limits to this approach are noted—including that emotions are hardly singular and thus coding can be difficult and trial transcripts are not often readily accessible—grappling with how emotions may be manipulated in the courtroom by attorneys remains important especially as the subject is relatively unexplored beyond mock-jury experiments. Findings may uncover and potentially legitimize attorney emotional appeals in the courtroom. This thesis accordingly offers a starting point for the underdeveloped study of emotion in the law.

Level of Access

Open Access

First Advisor

Engel, Stephen

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

Available to all.