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Stealing Sunshine

13 Pages Posted: 21 May 2010 Last revised: 2 Oct 2010

Ronen Perry

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law

Dana Weimann-Saks

University of Haifa

Date Written: September 1, 2009

Abstract

“Stealing Sunshine” is a trial advocacy technique whereby an attorney discloses, in the opening statement or on direct examination of a witness, information that seems advantageous to the opponent’s case, before the latter elicits or reveals it, in order to mitigate its expected impact on fact-finders. Our study is the first to examine the efficacy of this tactic, both theoretically and empirically. Given the primacy of our work, we drew on existing literature on a related courtroom technique commonly known as “stealing thunder,” which is - in a sense - the mirror image of the tactic under scrutiny. We hypothesized that stealing sunshine, just like stealing thunder, would be helpful to a litigant’s case.
We experimentally tested the efficacy of the tactic when used by the prosecution in a criminal case. The results support our hypothesis. We found, inter alia, that fact-finders’ assessments of the measure of guilt and of the appropriate level of punishment in the Stealing Sunshine condition (where the prosecutor revealed positive information about the defendant) were significantly higher than in the Sunshine condition (where the defendant revealed the same information about himself). The difference between the two conditions with respect to the ultimate verdict (namely the dichotomous variable: guilty/not guilty) was statistically insignificant, yet consistent with our hypothesis.

Suggested Citation

Perry, Ronen and Weimann-Saks, Dana, Stealing Sunshine (September 1, 2009). Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 73, 2011; 5th Annual Conference on Empirical Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1611558

Ronen Perry (Contact Author)

University of Haifa - Faculty of Law ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905
Israel

HOME PAGE: http://weblaw.haifa.ac.il/en/faculty/perry/

Dana Weimann-Saks

University of Haifa ( email )

Mount Carmel
Haifa, 31905
Israel

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