Friday, April 20, 2007

...Yes, but Judge Joe Brown, I really didn't...

By Lonnie Cruse

This post wanders in and out a bit about writing, so you'll have to stick with me. I love watching The People's Court on television. I usually turn it on while I surf the Internet and check e-mail, since I don't have to *think* to do that job, and I have lots of, um, down time while I wait for the pages to load on sloooooow dial-up. If my hubby walks through the office/den while I'm watching, he shakes his head. Obviously he doesn't have my sophisticated taste in television shows.

My favorite is Judge Marilyn Milian. She is, indeed, "hot" as the advertising insists. And she can yell at both the plaintiff and the defendant with the best of 'em. I'm sad that Judge Maybelline is no longer on in the mornings. She always wore a pretty silk shirt under her robes and a pin to match. And she's a hoot! Her courtroom was downright fun! Judge Alex is, ahem, attractive, so I suggest you check him out when you get a chance. The DNA results in Judge Joe Brown's court are always fascinating, and the defendants/plaintiffs NEVER call him "Your Honor" but always "Judge Joe Brown."

One interesting judge is Judge Greg Mathis because he often asks questions after the initial testimony, then jokes with his bailiff while the person answers, not appearing to be listening, not appearing to take their answers into consideration in his verdict. And he's a teensy bit short on patience. But he is a former gang member, who, as he says, "got a second chance" and turned his life around. You gotta admire that! So he really knows people at ALL levels. He's "been there, done that." He sees what others miss. Take a recent case.

Judge Mathis was asking questions of the defendant and, for once, listening closely to her answers. But he noticed something I missed (probably shaking my fist at the computer at that particular moment.) Every time the defendant answered him, she looked past him. He asked her why she kept looking at the wall behind him when she answered. She hedged that she *was* looking at him while she answered, but looking around the courtroom as well. Just looking around the room? Hmmm.

When she did it again, he looked over his shoulder at the wall and commented about her behavior again. The next time she looked beyond him, he got out of his chair and walked to the wall to check it out, as if to see what was so interesting on that part of the wall. Nothing but paneling. Of course, during this exchange, he was commenting to his bailiff and to the audience about it.

Suddenly I was riveted to the television, and the pages on my computer monitor were left to load without me encouraging them or gesturing at the screen. What was Mathis's point in getting out of his chair and going over to check out the wall? He sat down again and explained it to me and to the rest of the audience.

EVERY time she answered him, she looked to HER left, over his right shoulder at the wall. Body language. She was LYING to him. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

Okay, maybe the rest of you knew it, probably you did. I'd certainly heard about it, that if someone looks to THEIR left when answering you, they ARE lying. Particularly if they do it more than once. Fascinating for me because I'm currently taking a writing class on Empowering Character's Emotions from Margie Lawson. (

A large part of the class is learning how to use body language in writing (without overusing) to demonstrate to the reader what the character is thinking and/or doing. Subtle but very effective. And Judge Joe Brown demonstrated it effectively to the entire viewing audience. Looking left when lying is apparently an unconscious body movement we do and don't seem to be able to avoid.

If you are interested in making your writing more powerful, using body language, avoiding cliches or overused phrases, (which another of my Poe Sisters discussed this week) why not take an online class about creating more powerful and interesting characters? You'll gain information that will help you not only with writing them but in dealing with the ones you meet in real life.


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Hey, Lonnie, what about us lefties? Do we look to our right when we lie?

Jody said...

OOOh, Elizabeth beat me to it. That's exactly the question I wanted to ask. We lefties often do things in the opposite of righties. But has this been tested?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, nobody has said. But my guess is we'd still look to the left. I'll go lie to somebody and get back to you.

Lonnie the Leftie