Monday, January 30, 2012
CLOSING ARGUMENT PITFALLS
Checklist of Don’t for Closing Argument
Don’t damage your closing argument by stumbling into these pitfalls. Avoid:
A preramble. “First I want to thank you. This has been a long trial . . .blah . . .blah.”
A weak beginning.
Obviously attempting to ingratiate yourself with the jury.
Projecting insincerity. Making an argument you don’t believe in. Projecting confidence in the case is critical. The attorney is the case.
Not using logic in the argument.
Not making an emotional appeal (provided it’s not an impermissible appeal to passion and prejudice).
Not making an ethical appeal to the jury’s sense of justice, fairness and so on.
Misstating the law.
Misstating the facts.
Improper argument, such as appeals based on race, religion, passion and prejudice, matters outside the evidence and pejorative appellations.
Stating a personal opinion - “I believe . . .” Rule of Professional Responsibility 3.4(e)
Confusion unless that is the defense in the criminal case.
Not speaking in plain English.
Translating the important jury instructions into language that jurors can understand.
Speech devises, such as analogies, to drive home points.
Restating the facts. The story already should have been told in opening and throughout the case. This is the time for argument, not a statement of facts. Incorporate facts into the argument.
A podium unless the court requires otherwise. It’s conversational, not a lecture.
Losing eye contact. Reading.
A disconnect between the nature of the case and demeanor, such as anger in a forgery case.
Just saying it. Visuals and exhibits will bring the closing to life – tell and show.
Trying to be someone you’re not.
“This is a complex case.” “This case is simple.”
Too many details.
Leaving the jury in doubt as to what they should do. What should be their verdict?
A weak conclusion. Rather, have a powerful call to arms.
Going on too long.