Monday, November 14, 2011


The Call to Arms

Prior posts – one on closing argument strategies and another on analogies - have recommended modeling closing arguments after Vincent Bugliosi’s closing argument templates found in his book Outrage, which provides sample closings that he would have given if he had prosecuted O. J. Simpson.

Another Bugliosi book, Helter Skelter, also provides closing arguments that either can be adapted to other cases or at least provide inspiration for what can be done with final remarks. Helter Skelter has been described as the one of the best true crime books ever published. It won a 1975 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime book.

Charles Manson and his co-conspirators were the defendants in Helter Skelter. The case involved seven people who had been shot, stabbed and beaten to death.

Initial Closing Argument

At the end of his initial closing prosecutor Bugliosi sought to pull the sting of the defense closing by anticipating it and then he concluded his initial closing with a rallying call as follows:

“Under the law of this state and nation these defendants are entitled to have their day in court. They got that.
“They are also entitled to have a fair trial by an impartial jury. They also got that.
“That is all that they are entitled to!
“Since they committed these seven senseless murders, the People of the state of California are entitled to a guilty verdict.”

Just reading these words won’t suffice. They must be said out loud to be fully appreciated. Say them out loud. Feel the ringing of the words. Feel the power of the cadence.

Finishing Rebuttal

Bugliosi’s final words in rebuttal argument were equally compelling; they are described in Helter Skelter as follows:

“I came now to the end of my argument, what the newspapers would call the ‘roll call of the dead.’ After each name I paused, so the jurors could recall the person.
“’Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,’ I quietly began, ‘Sharon Tate . . .Abigail Fulger. . . Voytek Frykowski . . .Jay Sebring . . . Steven Parent . . . Leno LaBianca . . . Rosemary LaBianca. . . are not here with us now in this courtroom, but from their graves they cry out for justice. Justice can only be served by coming back to this courtroom with a verdict of guilty.’”

Again, the impact of these final words can be only fully comprehended when they are said aloud.

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