Closing Argument Tips

Closing ArgumentClosing argument is almost every trial lawyer’s favorite part.  Everyone is looking forward to it.  Everyone spends hours fantasizing about that incredible closing argument they will give.  With as much glory as it attracts, you’d figure there would be more good closing arguments being performed in the courthouse.  Instead, the court house is full of lawyers rehashing what witnesses said during the trial as if somehow the jury was not in the courtroom when the testimony was given.

To avoid all that, here are some tips to improve your closing argument game:

Tell Them What The Evidence Means, Not What It Is

The jury knows what the evidence is.  They were there when the evidence came out, and unlike you they have nothing going on other than listening to the witnesses.  Do not bore them by repeating to them what the witnesses said. Closing argument is not for that. Instead tell them what the evidence means.

Mr. Jones said by the time he came out at 10 A.M. the car was already gone, that means that this could not have happened when Mr. Smith said it happened.  It was raining, hailing, and dark when Mr. Jefferson witnessed the incident, that makes it extremely hard to see what he says he saw.  If Mr. White said that when he spoke to Mr. Jones Mr. Jones did not have a gun, that means that Mr. Jones had enough time to put the gun away before Mr. White saw him. If he had enough time to put the gun away, he had enough time to clean himself up.

All of these are examples of telling the jury what the evidence means as opposed to simply what it was. The jury does not need your help to know what the evidence was, but they want your help in figuring out what it means.

Tell A Story

Every part of your presentation should advance your story.  This includes closing argument.  The closing argument is the part of your case where you can most freely advance your story because you are not constrained by almost any rules.  So long as you stick to arguing the evidence and inferences from the evidence you could pretty much argue whatever you want.  You should use this freedom to tell a story.  Weave in the facts and inferences as one in a seamless way.  if you do this artfully to tell a compelling story the jury will often times have a hard time differentiating your story from the evidence.

Appeal To Emotion

Every case has an emotional angle, you just have to find it.  Closing argument is the perfect place to flesh out notions of justice, fairness, and righteousness.  People are moved by emotion, not logic. A closing argument that forgoes emotional appeal for logical appeal is selling itself short from the start.

Do Not Waste Your Time On Fillers

The jury’s attention span is limited.  Yet many lawyers start their closing arguments with things such as:

Members of the jury.  This is closing argument.  What I say is not evidence, it is simply a guidepost to help guide you in your decision here today. There are rules to closing argument, I will only tell you what I believe the evidence showed during the trial.  Regardless of what I tell you, it will be up to you and only up to you to decide this case however you see fit….zzzzzzz

The jury members have been summoned there to listen to a dispute that does not affect them in any way and they have to listen to lawyers talk all day.  Do not expect that they will listen attentively to you as you pontificate.  If what you’re saying to the jury is not specifically designed to advance your trial story remove it from the closing.  The jury will thank you for it.

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