The following is an excerpt from one of my closing arguments. I have changed the defendant’s name in order to protect both his privacy and that of others that were involved in some way:
“If Michael is guilty of anything, he’s guilty of using poor judgment and of caring so much for Beth; but that doesn’t make him guilty of any one of the crimes. It only makes him a criminal if he violates the law.”
“Michael is the one who stands in judgment before you. Michael’s fate – the fate of a fellow human being – lies in your hands. You may not have thought the way Michael thought, believed what he believed, or did what he did, but that doesn’t make him guilty. We’re all guilty of using poor judgment.”
“Michael sits before you an innocent man whose false statement has convinced everyone that he committed these crimes. Someone has to say ‘no’ to this. Guess who that is? I can’t do it. The only thing I can do is ask you to do it. Only you have that power.”
As you can see, I butchered the life out of the English language by mixing and mashing the tenses and using imperfect grammar that would be enough to cause my first grade English teacher to roll over in her grave. Nevertheless, these arguments were as truthful and honest as I could be in the moment I made them. Perhaps this is why it became a winning argument that resulted in an acquittal, despite all of its imperfections and overall bastardization of the English language.
In empowering the jury, don’t forget to remind them of how important they are. As judges of the facts, I have no hesitation whatsoever in telling them that they are the most important people in the courtroom.
While seemingly obvious, it’s easy to forget to tell the jury what you want them to do. It’s a good idea to make a habit out of doing this both in opening and in closing:
(1) Opening: Opening statement should end with a final appeal that tells the jury what you want or asks for vindication of the defendant’s actions.
(2) Closing: “When the foreman comes in and hands your verdict to the clerk, I want that verdict to be so that Michael can step right up and walk out of here with his son that he loves so much.”
This will help you harness the power of persuasion and positive communication in your opening statement and closing argument and will put you on the quickest path to winning the minds and hearts of the jury.