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Unformatted Document Text:  3 In Chinese criminal trials a defendant is presumed guilty and the purpose of the trial is to extract both confession and remorse. However, defendants typically present excuses or give accounts that deny guilt and the trial continues until they relent. The questioning discourse was thus strategically used by the prosecution or the presiding judge to obtain defendants’ oral confession. The following patterns of questioning were rhetorically used to help the court achieve its persuasive goals: a) repeating key questions b) invalidating excuses or accounts c) asking unanswerable questions d) supplying answers and e) paraphrasing or restating defendants’ responses. Key questions, those that try to elicit admission of guilt from defendants, are repeated by the prosecution or the presiding judge in order to obtain the expected answers. In reaction to defendants’ various kinds of excuses or accounts, the prosecution or the presiding judge constructs questions to invalidate them through evoking three sets of inferential rules 4 : a) heuristic rules (or common sense rules), b) moral or cultural standards, and c) factual or evidential rules. Unanswerable questions are used to confuse defendants. The questioner (i.e., the prosecution or the presiding judge) supplies answers to questions that defendants refuse to give the expected response (i.e., the admission of guilt) or paraphrases or restates defendants’ responses. All of these techniques aim at obtaining confession of crimes from defendants. Questioning in Chinese criminal courts is thus an interlocking process of accusing, invalidating, and shaming defendants with the goal of persuasion. Data Collection and Analysis The data used in this study consist of: 1) 4 Video-taped criminal trials that were shown on public television in China in recent years 2) direct observations and field notes of 5 criminal trials in an Intermediary Court in Cangzhou City, Hebei Province and 3) interviews with 10 lay people as well as 4 legal professionals. The direct observations and interviews were conducted during my almost three months’ field trip to China in the summer of 2001. 4 I borrowed the term “referential rules” from Bruce Gronbeck (1982). On classes of inference and force. In R. E. McKerrow (Ed.), Explorations in rhetoric: Studies in honor of Douglas Ehninger (pp. 85-106). Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foresman Company.

Authors: Chang, Yanrong.
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3
In Chinese criminal trials a defendant is presumed guilty and the purpose of the trial is to extract
both confession and remorse. However, defendants typically present excuses or give accounts that deny
guilt and the trial continues until they relent. The questioning discourse was thus strategically used by the
prosecution or the presiding judge to obtain defendants’ oral confession. The following patterns of
questioning were rhetorically used to help the court achieve its persuasive goals: a) repeating key
questions b) invalidating excuses or accounts c) asking unanswerable questions d) supplying answers and
e) paraphrasing or restating defendants’ responses. Key questions, those that try to elicit admission of
guilt from defendants, are repeated by the prosecution or the presiding judge in order to obtain the
expected answers. In reaction to defendants’ various kinds of excuses or accounts, the prosecution or the
presiding judge constructs questions to invalidate them through evoking three sets of inferential rules
4
: a)
heuristic rules (or common sense rules), b) moral or cultural standards, and c) factual or evidential rules.
Unanswerable questions are used to confuse defendants. The questioner (i.e., the prosecution or the
presiding judge) supplies answers to questions that defendants refuse to give the expected response (i.e.,
the admission of guilt) or paraphrases or restates defendants’ responses. All of these techniques aim at
obtaining confession of crimes from defendants. Questioning in Chinese criminal courts is thus an
interlocking process of accusing, invalidating, and shaming defendants with the goal of persuasion.
Data Collection and Analysis
The data used in this study consist of: 1) 4 Video-taped criminal trials that were shown on public
television in China in recent years 2) direct observations and field notes of 5 criminal trials in an
Intermediary Court in Cangzhou City, Hebei Province and 3) interviews with 10 lay people as well as 4
legal professionals. The direct observations and interviews were conducted during my almost three
months’ field trip to China in the summer of 2001.
4
I borrowed the term “referential rules” from Bruce Gronbeck (1982). On classes of inference and force. In R. E.
McKerrow (Ed.), Explorations in rhetoric: Studies in honor of Douglas Ehninger (pp. 85-106). Glenview, Illinois:
Scott, Foresman Company.


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