Episode 21 – Let the Griots Tell It





The West African word ‘griot’ is defined by members of traveling musicians, poets, and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history. This month’s podcast celebrates the griots that exist in the courtroom, which are the public defenders. Mastering the unique skill of storytelling is an essential art that allows public defenders to represent and honor their clients by telling their stories.

On National Tell a Story Day (April 27th), co-hosts Jonathan Rapping and Ilham Askia explore the importance of storytelling in the courtroom. Storytelling is a critical component within our Gideon’s Promise training. It allows our public defenders to humanize their client and their story, to get them the best outcome possible.

On this episode, our co-hosts speak with two premiere Gideon’s Promise faculty members who know the true meaning of what it means to embody their client’s story. Tune in as Director of Training for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Patrice Fulcher, and Training Director of the National Association for Public Defense, Jeff Sherr, speak about the benefits of storytelling, the science behind an impactful story, and what it means to be a great storyteller.




Attorney Patrice A. Fulcher is the Director of Training for the Maryland Office of the Public Defender (OPD).  She joined OPD in 2015, and is responsible for heading the Agency’s Gideon’s Promise Certified, New Hire Attorney Training Program; supervising the Attorney CLE requirements; developing/managing all other public defender training curriculum for OPD’s attorneys, leaders, and core staff throughout the state.  Patrice is also the Chair of the OPD DEI Training Subcommittee, and has facilitated agency-wide town halls on race, equity, and managing the effects of police violence on communities of color.

From 1995-2007, Patrice successfully represented indigent clients in Georgia facing the death penalty as well as all other major felony offenses.  She did so while serving as a Senior Staff Attorney for the Georgia Capital Defender and the Fulton County Public Defender offices, and as Senior Staff Attorney for the Georgia Fulton County Conflict Defender. Moreover, she provided representation and research for abused and neglected children with the DeKalb County Georgia Juvenile Court, and helped to litigate against unconstitutional jail conditions and practices with the Southern Center for Human Rights.

Patrice has been a Core Instructor for Gideon’s Promise, Inc. since its inception, and is a faculty member for the National Criminal Defense College.  Likewise, she has served as a litigation instructor for The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, The Kentucky Death Penalty Institute, The Mississippi Office of the State Public Defender Training Division, The National Association for Public Defense, The National Legal Aid & Defender Association (NSAMS Conference), Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit, and is a faculty member of the Harvard Law School Trial Advocacy Workshop. Patrice has also presented by request for numerous justice organizations such as the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Patrice received her J.D. from Emory University School of Law in 1995 and her B.A. from Howard University in 1992. She is admitted to practice law in Georgia and Maryland.




Jeff Sherr​ is the Training Director for the National Association for Public Defense producing hundreds of webinars for public defense professionals across the nation. Prior to that he was the Manager of the Education and Strategic Planning Branch of the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy.

He started with the DPA in1994, starting first as a law clerk, then working with the Juvenile Post Dispositional Unit, then in the trial division with the Stanford Field Office, and now in Frankfort with the education staff. Jeff graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1995.

Jeff has been a faculty member for Gideon’s Promise, the National Criminal Defense College, Clarence Darrow Death Penalty College, Harvard Trial Advocacy Workshop, Bronx Defender Academy, and other state litigation institutes. In addition to regularly training public defender litigators and trainers, Jeff trains public defender leaders nationally and for many individual defender states and offices.

He also has an extensive background in theatre having studied with the National Shakespeare Conservatory and the University of Kansas. Jeff performs regularly with Central Kentucky Improv in Lexington, Kentucky and at Improv Festivals across the country.



  • Why is it critical that public defenders know how to be good storytellers?
  • How does a client’s background or “story” help a public defender form a compelling defense on their behalf?
  • How does Gideon’s Promise approach the skill of “storytelling” throughout our training programs?

Gideon’s Promise: The Podcast can be found on Apple PodcastsSpotifySoundCloud,  YouTube and on the Gideon’s Promise website.



Gideon’s Promise: A Public Defender Movement to Transform Criminal Justice (2020) by Jonathan Rapping.