Analogies: The power of parables and fables

Want the jury to remember the key points of your closing argument? Having trouble making a point of law clear? The answer is to find a good analogy or anecdote to make your point. Some of the best teachers I had were those who used analogies to drive a point home. Jesus parables such as the “Good Samaritan” and the point it made has endured for centuries. Aesop’s Fable still have relevance and drive home the moral of the story centuries later.

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So in your case what is the “moral of your story” and how can you drive it home? What particular legal principle are you trying to explain in a fashion the jury can understand and use? One powerful analogy I came across dealt effectively with the burden of proof in a criminal case:

“Some some of you may be asking: so what exactly is a reasonable doubt? Well, imagine you took a cat and a mouse and put them in a cardboard box and sealed it up. A couple hours later you return and open the box and find only the cat. You can conclude that the mouse was eaten by the cat even though you were not there to see it. However, let’s say instead that you come back a couple hours later and find a small hole in the corner of the box large enough that a mouse could crawl though it. You open the box and find just a cat. Did the cat eat the mouse and star to claw it way out of the box while you were gone? Or did the mouse in the darken box chew its way out of the box and escape? You may think you know what happen, but you just cannot be for sure. That hole in the box is your reasonable doubt. Well, just like the box in my story, the prosecution case has a hole in it and that hole creates a reasonable doubt….”

There are lots of similar stories out there. I Remember Atticus: Inspiring Stories Every Trial Lawyer Should Know by Jim Perdue is such a book. There are other books out there as well as websites which provide a treasure trove of ideas and inspiration. Watch the trials of other attorneys or find books with transcripts of famous closing arguments; they will likely contain powerful analogies or anecdotes.

You can even draw upon your own experience or that of others. As you come across such stories, copy them down for future reference. They will improve your ability to communicate with the jury and help jurors favorable to your cause remember your arguments for use during deliberations.
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Posted on January 15, 2012, in Trial Advocacy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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