Bimbo Banter

Storytelling and the Menendez Brothers

  • Wildcard
  • January 11, 2017
  • by Maddy Madrazo

Menendez brothers

Here at Spaeth, the power and relevance of storytelling proves a consistent message. While storytelling is a pivotal tool in any field, good attorneys know good storytelling can win a case.

Recently ABC aired Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers, a new documentary reexamining the 1993 murder trial of Lyle and Erik Menendez. In the documentary, ABC reporter Terry Moran captivatingly asserts: “Trials are storytelling competitions . . .so whoever tells the better story in the trial that is anchored in the facts. . .that’s who’s going to persuade the jury.” Moran later notes that to win such a “competition,” simply outlining the events of a crime is insufficient. An attorney must instead explain experience and motive.

Essentially, what Moran describes is a distinction commonly made in literature—a distinction between story and plot. While story is a narrative of events organized in chronological order, it is the mastery of plot that any persuasive storyteller must achieve.

In the Menendez trial, the bare bones story was the same for each attorney: Lyle and Erik (admittedly) murdered their parents in their Beverly Hills home on August 20, 1989. Thus, the challenge for each attorney was to abstract from this story a compelling plot by exposing motive and more complex tensions underlying the story itself. For example, when the defense attorney effectively claimed Lyle and Erik murdered their parents in 1989 as an act of self-defense against the sexual abuse inflicted upon them by their father, the basic tale instantly transformed.

Though in the documentary Moran specifically refers to the role of storytelling in trials, his message is applicable also to speeches, business presentations, interviews, and countless additional situations. Compelling storytelling engages listeners and illuminates the purpose of any case or presentation by imbuing facts with detail and emotion. Storytelling is an invaluable strategic communications tool in the courtroom and beyond.

You May Also Like

Bimbo blog image e

BIMBO Nominees for June 2009

MEMO TO FRIENDS AND CLIENTS Great Quote “The purpose is to foster open minds and make the agony of decision making so intense that one can escape only by thinking,”  Fred Friendly as quoted by Lee Emery, Chief Executive… more 

09 19 14 hashtags and tweetering

Hashtags and Tweetering

“What’s a hashtag?” My father (who qualifies for the senior discount some places but not most places) asked me in the midst of a normal phone conversation. At first, I thought he was joking. Perhaps he had seen… more 

Bimbo blog image a

BIMBO Nominees for January 2018

Happy New Year! With each new year comes new public relations blunders, and we hope this Memo continues to serve as a healthy reminder of what NOT to say! This year, we challenge each of you to add… more 

Back to Top