Thesis synopsis

Synopsis of my PhD Thesis in Psychology, defended on May 2017

« The art of pleading in crime court : dialogic and argumentative analysis of a social technique of the feeling : the case Courjault »

The pleading for the crime court lawyers is the heart of their work activity. The purpose is to act through complex dialogical ways on the intimate conviction of the jurors. How ? This is the whole goal of that research : understand how the lawyer uses language to act and convince.

This research takes place in a program studying symbolic activities (Kostulski, 2011). The theorical backgrounds are the social psychology, the work psychology, but also the psychology of art. We defend the thesis that the pleading of the defendant lawyer is an art as Vygotski defines it, that is to say a social technique of the feeling, built from contradiction and catharsis.

To analyse this process we chose the case Courjault, also known as the case of the « frozen babies », that occured in France in 2008, and that was defended by Henri Leclerc. The efficiency of this lawyer was highly recognized during the trial, and especially for the pleading he performed. The whole pleading retranscribed is analysed in this research, in order to emphacize the ways art appears, by dialogical and argumentative dimensions.

We also had the possibility to meet Henri Leclerc twice so that we could show him the pleading text and ask him to comment on it, telling us what he was trying to do while pleading on that particular case. Conflictuality was studied through Bakhtin (1978) and Markova‟s (2007) works, and the catharsis process through Vygotski‟s psychology of art (1925/2005).

We chose as analysis unities the third parties voices (Grossen, 2011), Billig„s witcraft concept (1996), and Micheli‟s (2016) emotions semiotics.

Our analysis led us to conclude that the pleading dynamic is the one of a deliberation art, where conflictualities and the resolution of it are organised to act on the juror conviction. This art would make a deliberation area appear, moving the complex dialogy of the case, in order to act on the intimate conviction. This ephemeral art would only fulfill itself to allow voices to hear and respond each other, and maybe come together in a cathartic process.

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