‘I hurt her. I hurt her bad. She’s dead.’: An interdisciplinary exploration of interactions between the state and the individual in legal settings

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This study contributes to analyses of courtroom interactions building on previous research (Cotterill, 2003; Matoesian, 2001) through its investigation of the multiple layers of narrative and interaction. This work builds on the methodological approach of Thornborrow (2002) and brings together micro-analysis (drawn from Conversation Analysis) and macro-level discourses. These discourses include narrative in legal settings (Ehrlich, 2015) and the Foucaultian concept of power relations (Foucault, 1982). The jury is conceptualised as a ‘silent participant’ (based on research by Carter (2011)) as opposed to Heritage’s (1985) conceptualisation of ‘overhearer’ and builds on research into the systematic format courtroom interactions (Atkinson and Drew, 1979).

Data are taken from two US murder trials in North Carolina, USA. The selected trials are from mid-2013 and early 2014. Both concern the same homicide, with the defendants being tried separately. This allows for a localised comparison of data, as the judge and prosecution team remain the same whilst the defence teams (and jury) are different.

This study analyses courtroom interactions from three areas of the trial process. These are: the cross-examination of the defendant from the trial of Amanda Hayes; opening statements across both trials; and interactions in the absence of the jury. This thesis shows how courtroom discourse operates at multiple levels within courtroom interactions. Using a three-level conceptualisation of agenda, macro-narratives and micro-interactions, this study will show how linguistic devices are employed by interactants to formulate their ‘version’ of events and how these linguistic devices are employed towards the jury. It will also show how broader social discourses are directly oriented to by interlocutors in the formation and presentation of their narratives. Particular attention is paid to the manner in which these (competing) narratives are made relevant, and their co-construction within micro-level interactions.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Newcastle University
Award date19 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

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