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Did Benjamin Crump’s Communication Skills Help Lose Cases?

(Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

…when you are in representing somebody in a courtroom, where life and death could hang in the balance, should you not go the extra mile on your presentation?

This is constructive in every meaning and intention of the word. It is not an attack on Benjamin Crump. While I am very much aware of what goes on in court and who plays an integral part in a case like the prosecution, defense, judge, witnesses, jury, evidence etc, how often do we consider the communication skills of an attorney and how that plays a part in presenting a case and/or reaching the jury? The loss of a black boy or a black man’s life be it from a white cop or anyone else is tragic.  Condolences to Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin’s family for their losses but I want to dig deeper and talk to radio pros about something I noticed during the Mike Brown Grand Jury decision as well as Trayvon’s trial.

It’s very difficult to be a professional radio announcer and publish a site targeting other radio pros and not be aware of Attorney Benjamin Crump’s communication skills. Crump was the attorney for both Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown’s families. Crump reminds me of Christopher Darden, (pictured) remember him during the loss in the OJ Simpson trial? This is not to discredit Crump’s experience and expertise, from all appearances, he is extremely well versed in law and has abundant knowledge.

Urban Radio Pros Know this…

As radio pros we KNOW that our job is to move, inspire, encourage, entertain and educate our audiences.  I’m not saying anyone has to speak in a way that is foreign to them but when you are in representing somebody in or out of a courtroom situation, where life and death could hang in the balance, should you not go the extra mile on your presentation? It has always been my thinking that attorneys and professors should take acting and speech classes in college as part of their training.  Not all of them need it but it’s a great idea to have the reference point for future trials. When I heard Benjamin Crump speak during the CNN coverage of the looting after he and the prosecutor did not return with an inducement, I was shocked at what I heard. This is not the first time I have heard him speak but I realized I immediately tuned him out when I heard him before because I had to work too hard to interpret and understand what he was saying and his energy did not leave me the option to do that. Is this what the prosecution and as a result, the jury did too (Trayvon Martin trial)? It’s not just the pronunciation of words, it’s the inflection, modulation and overall delivery that gets the message across and you don’t have to be the BEST speaker to do it but where you lack in one area it certainly helps to gain strength in another. When you are flat in all areas there is a problem. The quality of any leader lies in his ability to communicate.

Communication skills are PARAMOUNT to get you from point A to point B and it is also an integral part of one being taken seriously. I’m not talking about your use of the English language as much as I’m talking about the combination of the use and/or your ability to persuade, convince, sell, motivate and encourage. I would think those are the qualities any good attorney needs to succeed. At least the ones that I know have those qualities. When you look at hip hop it’s the same thing, the best rappers don’t rap like white people talk but they are able to convince, sell, encourage, motivate, etc. I have seen very angry people yelling and screaming or suffering from a loss in a foreign language but their pain and frustration is still recognizable and transcribed.

If you were watching American Idol and a great singer came out and was singing with her head down and arms glued to her side, she had no motivation, never made eye contact and didn’t use her space, how apt would you be to listen to her and believe her? Moreover, vote for her? Was she able to convince you with such limited effort? Being a great singer is just the start.

Benjamin’s communication skills may or may not be the catalyst that lost both the Trayvon Martin case AND the attempt to garner an indictment for Darren Wilson but he was the family attorney and the face of both cases  and he will go down in history as the attorney who lost not one but two historic cases even though he did not technically lose the cases he was the attorney who represented the families.  Mike Brown’s parents probably hired Crump’s team to represent them after his involvement in losing the landmark Trayvon Martin case… Pro Bono, perhaps, it was the best they could do. I cannot blame them for that but did they have any other options? It was a very high-profile case. It would seem there would have been other attorneys wanting to be on board.  How apt would you have been to hire an attorney to represent you who was involved in a similar case that lost?

Great Communication Sells Ideas, Thoughts and Goals and Influences Others

Without question St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch, may not be likable but he does have great communication skills. During the press conference, he was very believable for most of his speech, even if you didn’t like him… you listened to him. Even though it was long and drawn out you heard every word he said and it didn’t bother you as much that he was taking too long to state whether or not Darren Wilson would be indicted.  (By the way, these are the types of jobs, spokespersons, that older radio jocks would be great for if they only apply). He did not do as well during the question and answer period which began to discredit his previous believable segment and that’s probably when a lot of black people lost interest. He became defensive, he lost his “cool” effect and he came off like he was an elitist and insulted by a couple of the reporter’s questions. If you look at the video you can sense the anger in the minority reporters who asked questions as well, they maintained themselves but once again, they were able to communicate their feelings through their body language and their questions.

When you see great attorneys in the courtroom they are often very animated and they always have excellent communication skills, they know how to make the jury think and witnesses break down, it’s not just about asking the right questions it’s about the WAY the questions are asked and how they are answered. Who can remember Johnny Cochran during the OJ trial? He was educated, informed, animated, unpredictable, interesting creative, dramatic and convincing. Overall, he had great communication skills. A politician is not going to get the vote if he is not able to communicate with voters and a professor is going to have a lot of sleepy students and failing grades to give out if he or she does not know how to communicate.

When you look at Maxine Waters (pictured) and you are from the black community you are immediately able to relate to her persona. Who didn’t have a mother, aunt, teacher or neighbor or woman at the church that Maxine reminds them of? She has your attention right away and she keeps it.

Not Always Used for Good

Great communicators get your attention and can sway you in their direction even when they are wrong. Some of the worst leaders in the world were able to get people to follow them because of their communication skills. Con artists are able to rip people off because of their great communication skills. They make you think they are the vulnerable ones and that they can be taken advantage of and people fall for it and lose. The ability may not always be used for good but it has to be used if you are trying to convince someone. You have to be able to enlighten, educate, inform, reach and touch your audience.

If the odds are already stacked against us when it comes to the legal system, would it not behoove us to at least be completely prepared? You can tighten up your communication skills, it’s not something that cannot be worked on and changed for the better.

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9 comments

thegolden1 November 25, 2014 at 11:58 am

As i’m reading about your observation about Mr. Crumps language skills, I also would like to comment on the mispelled words and sentence structure of your article. You are a writer correct? In your second paragraph, second sentence you use the word taking instead of talking….proofread before you start pointing fingers!

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Radio Facts November 25, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Noted. I thank you for pointing that out.
K

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Greg Johnson November 25, 2014 at 2:21 pm

yeah, I was wondering about Mr. Crump… he is 0-2 in critical cases…. is it him or is it the inherently racist judicial system… perhaps it’s both! either way it’s a sad day and a raw indicator of the times…

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Radio Facts November 25, 2014 at 3:26 pm

I would venture to say it ‘s both too Greg which is why it so important to come to the table FULLY prepared.

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WorldMagi December 8, 2014 at 6:38 am

I was searching for some info on this observation. I’ve never seen/heard such a stoic presentation involving a very passionate issue (both Martin and Brown cases). He comes across as meek and unstable. The pace of his speech is too slow, leaving me wanting more information granted the limited time he has to convince his audience. At 0-2 on national cases, I hope there is not another case involving the murder of unarmed males of any race, however, the chances of getting an indictment may improve with a different attorney.

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rbradford January 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm

This piece fails to recognize that Ben Crump did not argue before the jury in the Trayvon Martin case. He was not a witness in the case. He served as the family attorney, appeared on CNN, Fox, etc., but he was neither a witness nor an advocate. In the courtroom, Trayvon Martin and his family were represented by the state attorney’s office. Likewise, in the Michael Brown case, it was the government, not Ben Crump, who argued before the grand jury to obtain an indictment. Ben Crump’s communication skills had nothing to do with the outcome of either case. While he was the face of the respective family members, he was silent in the courtroom. Ben and his partner Daryl Parks are outstanding attorneys. Almost 20 years ago, these young men started their own law practice that they’ve built from nothing and now employ a team of attorneys, paralegals, and staff. I would say they’ve done something right over the years.

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Mstr T November 25, 2018 at 8:07 am

For the life of me I still don’t understand why blacks continue to hire Ben Crump to represent them. I don’t care how many high profile cases he has represented, how many has he won ?? He allowed Trayvons girlfriend to take the witness stand 100% UNPREPARED, the prosecutors ate her alive to the point she didn’t know if she was coming or going. Attorney Crump lost that case based solely on that one witness. I wouldn’t hire Crump to represent my dog, he’s a loser.

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COURTNEY D WILSON October 6, 2019 at 8:17 pm

The two cases everyone is talking about Trayvons and Brown that Crump lost. He did not lose those cases. The prosecutors
are the only one who can bring a case to the Grand jury. Crump won the civil cases for both family $$$$$. also Mstr T If you knew anything about the LAW, You would remove your comments. Ben Crump IS NOT A PROSECUTOR, Ben had nothing to do with the
criminal case. The prosecutor did not eat her alive. It was the defense atty for the defender. Mstra T Before you post anything know your facts. You have the right to hire anyone you want, in most civil case you don”t pay up front the atty make their money if
they WIN THE CASE and he has been winning alot of cases I Just hope your DOG Don’t need an attorney because Mr Crump could
not represent DOG because the owner is a Loser.
Courtney D Wilson

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Anonymous October 26, 2019 at 9:22 am

The truth of the matter Ben, as the civil lawyer for the families, completely won both their cases.  As a matter of fact recovered millions of dollars in the civil lawsuits.  He could just take the money and run, but it doesn’t appear to be the case because he is one of the lawyers who still shows up nationwide when there appears to be an unjust killing of someone in minority communities.  When he shows up to one of these areas there are probably no promises to compensation but he shows up willing to represent a Parent or family member who is severely grieving and probably doesn’t have the financial means to retain an attorney. 

What made me take a moment to respond to this commentary is that I saw that rbradford  provided a factual rebuttal to this back January 27, 2015 at 7:21 pm. So I am a little lost with this Post opening line that re-appeared on the same day the Elijah Cummings service was being held “This is constructive in every meaning and intention of the word. It is not an attack on Benjamin Crump”. Recently I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Crump at the Congressional Black Caucus and every person of color who talked about their individual injustice got a listening ear.

For every Trayvon, and Brown, there a hundred similar cases that no one ever remembers because there’s no high profile attention. Maybe we can use your platform to expose the flaws in our system, not criticizing individuals. It does appear that this year high profile cases – Corey Jones, Markeis McGlockton, and Botham Jean- has resulted in the convictions.

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