- the last opportunity to communicate directly with the jury
- allows the attorneys to make logical arguments from the evidence and present the case themes, contested issues, and reasons why your party should receive a favorable verdict
- arguments must be organized and parallel the opening statement and summarize the evidence in the case
- jury instructions are drafted prior to the trial (proposed jury instructions given
to the judge by both attorneys) they are submitted to the judge for final
- given to jury by the judge before or after closing arguments
- the judge will give the jury instructions re: jury deliberation and the law
- attorneys should use those instructions in their closing argument
- verdict forms are given to a jury before they go to deliberate
- simple forms "we the jury find in favor of
organization of a closing argument
Introductionthank the jurors for their attention and jump right into your case theme and your arguments.
Issuesstate the issue in the case in a way where the answer should be obvious and then answer it anyway (i.e. there is only one issue in this case, was the defendant negligent when he drove his car and crashed into Mr. Joness car? The answer is obvious: The defendant was negligent, the defendant was the only one who was negligent, and the defendants negligence was the only cause of Mr. Joness injuries.")
What really happened and proofpresent your version of the truth. Avoid too much time reviewing undisputed facts and events and focus on the key factual disputes in the case, focusing on getting the jury to accept your version and argue that you have more and more credible evidence so that the jury must resolve the disputes in your favor. Let the jury know what the facts mean to win the jury over to your version of the disputed facts.
Basis of liability/nonliabilityinform the jury where the liability is (i.e. so what did the defendant do that was negligent (sexual harassment)
Damagesstate the damages the plaintiff is entitled to recover and justify that (the defense states how the plaintiff is not entitled to damages because the defendant is not liable and justify why).
Instructionstie specific instructions to specific points in your argument (burden of proof-preponderance of the evidence, defenses/claims, define important legal terms, credibility of witnesses, use of common sense and experiences in life, sympathy should not be considered).
Refute the other sidegive the jury reasons to resist the opposing sides case/arguments
Conclusionremind the jury of a key theme or other important point and end crisply and dramatically so that your last phrase lingers in the jurys mind.
preparing the closing argument
- in the first minute, communicate your case theme, why the jury should find in your favor, and your enthusiasm about your case
- the first minute must grab the jurors in a way that will compel them to continue listening
- remember that closing argument is an argument (not just a recitation of the evidence already heard, but consists of the case themes, the theory of the case, and supporting evidence molded together into a persuasive whole)
- a closing argument is logic, evidence, and emotion brought together
- - your goal is to make the jurors want to do what you want and to feel good about it afterwards
- be organized
- be efficient with time (get in as much detail as possible in the time given)
- focus on key evidence and the law
- your best evidence often should be repeated
- be clearwork on easy-to-understand wording and clear organization
- make the closing argument memorable (jurors remember things stated in a distinctive way)
- remember that juries decide the case on the evidence, so persuade with facts
- remember that during deliberation the jury is arguing the facts
- arguing the facts involves more than a simple recitation of the testimony and other evidence, but involves analysis
- in closing, attorneys make inferences from the evidence that, when presented as an integrated whole, creates an impression that convinces the jury that their side should win
- refer to specific witnesses and their testimony when arguing the facts
- remember that a "fact" only becomes a fact when the jury accepts it as truethus, tell the jury why something is a true facts by reminding them what witness(s) said it, how it was said, and why it makes sense
- avoid making statements of your personal beliefs and opinions about witness credibility and the quality of the evidence presented ("I think that" and "I believe that" are objectionable and improper and unpersuasive)
- use exhibits to help clarify evidence and highlight main points of your argument (use them only when referring to them and then put them away)
- incorporate the judges instructions in your closing statement (such as the jurys ability to determine the credibility of witnesses)
techniques to enhance a closing argument
- rhetorical questions (anticipate the questions the jurors would probably ask if
they couldi.e. "you are probably asking yourself
")to highlight your case or challenge your opponent with difficult or unanswerable questions (i.e. "the plaintiff must prove that
, you must ask, did the plaintiff prove that, as you will recall from the evidence presented today, no evidence was presented to answer that question and, as such, the plaintiff failed to meet her burden of proof." --- i.e. "why didnt the defendant just keep his foot on the brake until the light changed? It was only two more seconds and an easy task to do. Why didnt he wait just two seconds? Thats the question they never want asked, and its the question they cant answer."
- analogies and stories (short and pertinent ones) can define and crystallize an
idea in the jurys mind.
- argue your cases strengths more than the opponents weaknesses
- deal candidly with your cases weaknesses (realize your weaknesses are your opponents strengths so you cant avoid them).
- Force your opponent to argue his weaknesses (rhetorical questions help here to challenge the opposition to explain his weaknesses)
- Let the jury see that you firmly believe in your case (delivery is important)
- View the closing argument as a logical discussion with the jury