Vol. 67 No. 4 (2019)

Names and Identities in Courtroom Narratives

Published 2019-10-02


This study seeks to examine how the use of names serves to accomplish the process of identity construction in institutional discourse. Drawing upon six opening addresses from three high-profile trials, the study analyzes the forms, functions, and frequency of names that lawyers use to refer to defendants and victims in their narratives. The quantitative and qualitative analysis reveals that the prosecution and the defense differ starkly in how they use names to construct the identities of the characters. Such systematic differences contribute to ascribing polarized identities to the characters, which in effect negotiates reality by (de)legitimizing guilt and responsibility claims and mediating jurors’ perceptions.


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