Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Chair/Advisor

Cynthia Haynes

Committee Member

Bryan Denham

Committee Member

Gabriel Hankins

Committee Member

Rhys Hester


Poetic Justice: Connecting the Modern American Prosecutor to her Rhetorical Roots explores the gap between rhetoric and the American prosecutor, to eventually advocate for a more creative, inventive trial practice for prosecutors that embraces the spirit and methods of narrative, poetics, and Ulmeric mystories, with the prosecutor’s unique ethical obligations forming the basis of a new prosecutor’s rhetoric. This research opens with an autoethnographic account of the author’s own path to criminal prosecution, to give the reader a sense of the author’s ethos, to identify the shortcomings of rhetorical training in law school pedagogy, and to outline the rhetorical methods that the author has developed during 15 years as a prosecutor even in the absence of formal rhetorical training in law school. The techniques of narrative, poetry, and mystory are used throughout the autoethnographic portions of the study both to substantively inform the reader and to demonstrate the effectiveness of those techniques. The research continues with an examination of how and why rhetoric never found a permanent home in the American law school—notwithstanding the fact that criminal prosecution is explicitly rhetorical, and that ancient rhetoric arose out of the need to make legal arguments—and outlines a method to reconnect the prosecutor to rhetoric. A close read of the works of Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian in light of the unique ethical obligations of the prosecutor reveals an uncanny degree of similarity, and eventually makes the case for the American prosecutor being the rightful ideological heir to Quintilian’s perfect orator. This research closes with a course description for ‘A Prosecutor’s Rhetoric: Ethically Knowing, Doing, and Making Justice’.

Author ORCID Identifier




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