Closing Argument: How to Combat Guilt by Association

HarvestingOftentimes, we have clients who through no fault of their own grow up in difficult circumstances or are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.   The opposing attorney may try to paint your client as less than worthy in the eyes of the law.   However, remember that lady justice holds the scales of justice blindfolded so that all are treated equally without the consideration of improper factors or prejudice about how they may look or where they find themselves stationed in life.  Below is a useful analogy that Gerry Spence made use in his criminal defense of Randy Weaver against the federal government in dealing with guilt by association:

A farmer had difficulty with a flock of crows plundering his crops. As a result, the farmer put up a large net high in the air to catch the offending crows as they flew over his fields filled with crops. At the end of the day, the farmer pulled down his net and among all the crows which had attacked his crops was a single white swan. The farmer pulled the birds off of the net one by one and wrung their necks to kill them.

When the farmer came to the swan, the swan cried out, “I’m just a swan! I’m not a crow! I was just flying by and got caught in your net.” The farmer responded, “Why you must be a crow, because I caught you in my net.”

The innocent swan died at the hands of the farmer that day because it was in the wrong place at the wrong time. The farmer assumed it was a crow even though the swan had done nothing wrong.

That’s what we call “guilt by association”. It has no place in our system of justice as it is proof of nothing. We all know that it’s wrong to jump to such a conclusion, but that’s what the other side has done here. And they are asking you now to do the same thing by finding my client “guilty by association”.


Another analogy that comes to mind from the bible is the following Parable of the Weeds used by Jesus in describing judgment day in Matthew 13:24-30 :

Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time, I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Does not my client deserve the same consideration?  Shouldn’t he be judge based upon who he is and not who he is with or where he lives?

Posted on May 21, 2015, in closing arguments, Trial Advocacy and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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