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Ted Bundy chose to act as his own lawyer during his double murder trial, by doing this he took on the role of facilitator. A facilitator is a person who is engaging in action in order to make a process easier. Bundy chose to take on this role because he felt his lawyer was not looking out for his best interest, and he believed that he had a better chance of being able to convince a jury of his innocence. Facilitators can be found in a variety of professions, but one does not need to hold a certain title to engage in facilitation.
The purpose of the process, in regards to Ted Bundy acting as a facilitator, was proving his innocence at his trial. There were many people present during this. The first person present was Edward Cowart the judge presiding over the trial. Larry Simpson was the prosecutor who was trying the case. His job was to prove Bundy’s guilt. Dan Dowd was Bundy’s defense lawyer (until Bundy asks the court to remove him as counsel and Dowd promptly quits). Other people present are Carole Ann Boone, Bundy’s girlfriend, a gallery full of onlookers watching the trial, and finally the jury members and court officers.
There are other unnamed people present during the facilitation, like what appears to be co-counsel for Bundy and Simpson. However, because the unnamed people do not actively participate in the facilitation they serve no other purpose but to witness it occurring. The main interactions are from Bundy, Cowart, Simpson, and Dowd. Bundy quickly took over his trial, and embraced the role as his own lawyer and as a facilitator.
The term used to describe this facilitator was defendant and self-acting attorney. Engaging in both of these could have constituted a crime on its own as lawyers cannot hide aspects of crimes, but he cannot say anything that would incriminate himself either because of the 5th Amendment (Middleton, 2015). He had no other titles besides that of law student because he was not a court officer nor was he an actual lawyer. “Student-centered facilitation is an effective method for teaching leadership skills to law students” (Hardesty, 2017). The other people present have titles such as, prosecutor, defense lawyer, and judge. This group could be described as a circumstantial group. They would not be a group but for the events that caused them to gather, i.e. the trial.
Bundy utilized the sermon or lecture approach, which should be avoided when acting as a facilitator. He also attempted to use the I-We-It approach, but did not perform it effectively because he did not use the balanced approach recommended for it to be effective. The ‘It’ was the trial and the ‘We’ would have been everyone there present for the facilitation. However, Bundy focused on the ‘I’ and challenged the ‘It’ and ‘We’ in such a way that his attempt at facilitation was not done well.
Bundy continuously insulted the trial process and the people’s actions who were prosecuting him, in addition to playing the victim and highlighting his intelligence. These actions depicted the facilitation approaches one should not use. He spoke to the people in the courtroom as if he were a preacher or a teacher. One could also argue that Bundy possibly was attempting to engage in Interest-Based Facilitation, where he points out the initial solution, i.e. his innocence, discusses the options, i.e. his teeth do not match the bite marks, the acceptable solution, i.e. his innocence and therefore letting him go free. However, this is not how Interest-Based Facilitation is accomplished in a substantive manner.
Conflicts that arose during this trial were Bundy’s unwavering assertion that he was completely innocent of all charges. He called into question the validity of a state’s witness (forensic dentist), he did not want the media involved, he argued with the judge, he engaged in theatrics in the courtroom (marrying his girlfriend while she sat on the witness stand), and found a way around his gag order by coaching his then girlfriend on what to say to the press. Another conflict arose between Bundy and his lawyer, Dan Dowd. Dowd had tried to convince him to take a plea deal to avoid the death penalty, but instead of taking his lawyer’s advice asked to fire is attorney in open court. This led to an outburst by Dowd, to which he quit and stormed out of the courtroom.
The facilitator, in this example Bundy, did nothing to address the conflicts instead he caused many of them. The others who were present during the facilitation attempted to address the conflicts as they arose. The prosecutor would object, the judge would attempt to get Bundy under control, and it appeared as if no one knew he was talking to the press through his girlfriend, except for his girlfriend. The judge was the only one who addressed any conflict successfully because he had more power in the power dynamic than the other people present in the facilitation (Tiberg, 2017).
One challenge that Bundy had to deal with was the fact that there was extensive media coverage about him before his trial. There was not anything he could do to address this, although he did try. He was against the use of cameras during his trial, and tried to get them tossed out during the pre-trial phase. His attempt did not work and cameras were allowed in, much in thanks to the Supreme Court ruling a single month prior to the start of his trial that cameras were allowed in courtrooms (Garcia-Blanco, 2018).
Another challenge was that he wanted to address the media, and he knew he could not directly address the cameras in the courtroom. There was also a gag order placed on him preventing him from speaking to the media directly. He worked to overcome this by coaching his then girlfriend, and eventual wife, on what to say to media outlets that were outside the courtroom. It worked, and she told the members of the media exactly what he wanted her to.
Bundy would have been better off utilizing the Interest-Based Facilitation Approach, especially had he used it in the manner it should be used. It appeared as though Bundy’s original lawyer attempted to get him to utilize this approach. He saw the problem as Bundy being convicted and sentenced to death because the state’s evidence against his was strong. The options were to continue with the trial or take a plea deal. The acceptable solution was to take the plea deal. The plea deal could have then been implemented and the issue of saving his life would have been solved. This is not the avenue that was chosen to be utilized by Bundy, and it was a decision that would end up costing him his life.
Ted Bundy caused many of the issues and conflicts, except for the media being allowed to broadcast his trial. He could have addressed the issues by not causing them. However, he had chosen to utilize incorrect facilitation approaches that do not work. Bundy was not a successful facilitator. One of the major pitfalls for Bundy was not abiding by ground rule. Ground rules were set by the court and should be followed; his facilitation approach ignored ground rules and did not reinforce them which contributed to the chaos in the courtroom (Salerno, 2013).
- Garcia-Blanco, I. &. (2018). Between a ‘Media Circus’ and ‘Seeing Justice Being Done’: Metajournalistic Discourse and the Transparency of Justice in the Debate on Filming Trials in Brisith Newspapers. Journalism, https://doi.org/10.1177/1464884918760025.
- Hardesty, D. J. (2017). Law Students as Future Leaders: Using Neutral Facilitation Techniques to Teach Leadership Skills. Retrieved from West Virginia Law Review Online: https://wvlawreview.wvu.edu/west-virginia-law-review-online/2017/09/15/law-students-as-future-leaders-using-neutral-facilitation-techniques-to-teach-leadership-skills
- Middleton, D. &. (2015). Let Sleeping Lawyers Lie: Organized Crime, Lawyers and the Regulation of Legal Services. The British Journal of Criminology, 55(4).
- Salerno, A. P. (2013). Secrets to Group Facilitation. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
- Tiberg, I. H. (2017). An Ethnographic Study of the Facilitator Role in an Implementation Process. BMC Research, 10(1), 630.
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