Closing with Style
Posted by Richard A. Cook
As mentioned in my last post, there are a number of great sources worth consulting for purposes of delivering a closing argument. On that is particularly appropriate is the a speech book called, Speak Like Churchill Stand Like Lincoln by James Humes. Here are a few short comments on this topic:
- Tone – You should vary your tone and positioning during your argument and use that as a signal to the jury as you move from point to point. Your delivery should have feeling and sincerity
2. Time Limits – Try and learn what limits the Court is likely to place upon you before the trial begins so that you can adjust your closing argument accordingly. I typically try to leave at least a third of my time for rebuttal argument when I am the plaintiff. Ask the Court to signal you when you are down to your last five minutes. Have your closing remarks down pat so you can end on a high note.
- The Whole Case – You want to weave together the whole case for the jury and show how it fits into the narrative you presented in opening statement and is addressed by law as given by the Court. Make sure that you give specially tailored instructions to discuss the central issues in your case. Examples could include sudden emergency, pre-existing conditions, intervening causes, superseding causes, mistreatment by a doctor, evidence offered for a limited purpose, etc. Both the law and the facts will impact your case. Also, make sure that you have a good issue instruction since this will likely be the first exposure that the jurors will have to your case.
Don’t be afraid to introduce in your jury voir dire certain concepts or even analogies if you are sure you are going to use them as part of your theme. I was defending a murder case and used the “cat & mouse in the box” analogy in explaining reasonable doubt and in my closing I was able to refer to the various problems with the case as the “holes in the box” carrying on my theme throughout the case.
4. Use of Visuals – Paint a vivid picture with choice of words you use. For example, “They beat my client like a dog, blood splattering everywhere while he begged for his life.”
5. Quotes – There is a website called “Quotationary Online”, here is the link:
Thanks to the internet you can find quote about almost anything in a matter of seconds. Here are a few I like in no particular order:
- “The truth exists, but lies are invested.”
- “Bad excuses are worse than none at all and all that you have heard are bad excuses.”
- “Many a lie is woven in the fabric of truth.”
- “There are three kinds of lies. Lies, damn lies and statistics.”
- “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”
- “If you tell the truth, you never have to remember.”
- ” No one has asked for your sympathy and no one does now, and when you have reached a verdict which is sanctioned by your conscience and ratified by your reason, no one can ever be heard to complain.”
- “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”
- ” Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
- “Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere.”
- “Man, when perfected, is the best of animals, but when separated from law and justice, he is the worst of all.”
- “You can protect your liberties in this world only by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can be free only if I am free.”
- “As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.”
- “The pursuit of truth shall set you free even if you never catch up with it”
- “Experience is the wisdom that enables us to recognize in an undesirable old acquaintance, the folly that we have already embraced.”
- “I had rather take my chance that some traitors will escape detection than spread abroad a spirit of general suspicion and distrust, which accepts rumor and gossip in place of undismayed and unintimidated inquiry.”
- “There is no wealth like knowledge; no poverty like ignorance”.
Finally, a couple of quotes for those who seek our advice without first paying for it:
- “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.”
- “Remember my advice is worth exactly what you are paying for it… Nothing.”
- “Speaking of nothing, nothing is better than a good quote.”
6. Analogies – “One good analogy is worth three hours discussion.” – Dudley Field Malone.
I have outlined a number of analogies throughout my blog. When you hear a good analogy, make a mental note of it; or, better yet, write it down. I have a huge collection of analogies I have gathered over the years. The series of books designed for sermons called The Sower’s Seeds is a great source. I am also partial to a book entitled, I Remember Atticus: Inspiring Stories Every Trial Lawyer Should Know by Jim M. Purdue.