Breaking Bad Facts: How Intriguing Contradictions in Fiction Can Teach Lawyers to Re-Envision Harmful Evidence

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By viewing contradictions through this storytelling lens, lawyers faced with seemingly contradictory facts in a trial or an appellate case can craft a more realistic and ethical narrative. In so doing, they can create greater logical cohesion and underscore their theory of the case. This article illustrates this story element in fiction examples and then uses examples from case law to show how the concept aids lawyers in overcoming seemingly inconsistent facts. It proposes the next stage in scholarship on seemingly harmful evidence—viewing that evidence through the storytelling lens, which other scholars have applied to other aspects of legal narratives. This article aids judges who are exploring the role of story in law, trial and appellate practitioners faced with seemingly harmful facts, law students learning to craft a persuasive legal narrative for litigation or appellate work, law professors who are teaching these concepts or writing related scholarly articles, and both literary-criticism scholars and fiction writers.

Part two of this article provides a short introduction to Applied Legal Storytelling. Part three provides a brief definition of intriguing contradictions. Part four demonstrates how turning away from clients at the first sight of contradiction can result in miscarriages of justice, such as wrongful convictions. Part five shows how embracing intriguing contradictions results in a more genuine and realistic story. Part six explains how to weave intriguing contradictions into elements of the story. Part seven discusses the process of developing intriguing contradictions. Part eight concludes that lawyers should explore and often embrace seemingly bad facts because they are frequently a part of the client’s story and can make the story more believable rather than less.

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