When all witness testimony has been exhausted, and all relevant evidence pertaining to your trial has been shared, the time will come for closing arguments. This is the final opportunity for each legal team to present the facts of the case and their arguments in defense of their client. Similar to opening statements, closing arguments are intricately crafted speeches that can have a lasting—and in this case, final—impact on the outcome of your trial.
Why We Make Closing Arguments
In a legal trial, closing arguments serve as the final opportunity for lawyers to persuade the jury or judge to adopt their interpretation of the case. This crucial stage allows attorneys to summarize the evidence that was presented, highlight any key points that they would like the jury to remember and pay particularly close attention to as they make their deliberation, and present all their strongest arguments on their client’s behalf.
Depending on the complexity and length of the trial, it’s likely that the jury has been given a mountain of information to process and so likely needs helpful reminders about what’s at stake, as well as what facts they have on hand to consider. So summarizing the evidence and re-presenting the most crucial aspects of that evidence is necessary for lawyers on both sides of the argument to do in order to remind the jury of the key elements supporting their client’s position. This not only helps reinforce the strength of their case but helps to ensure that the jury comprehends the facts presented accurately.
During closing arguments, attorneys are also allowed to offer their interpretation of the evidence and witness testimony that was presented, whereas, during the previous actual witness testimony, they were limited to questioning the witness on the stand rather than addressing the jury directly. Now, during this last argumentative phase, they have the chance to directly emphasize favorable facts exclusively for the sake of the jury while also directly downplaying or challenging the opposing party’s evidence and argument.
How Closing Arguments Work
Just as with every other process of a legal trial, there are specific steps and expectations that must be adhered to during the process of closing arguments. To start, your attorney and their team will take time outside the courtroom to craft their closing argument. They may or may not work directly with you during this time, and will be focusing on all the facts and evidence that were presented throughout the case. They will also focus on the position of the defendant’s counsel and case, trying to pinpoint the arguments they shared and finding ways they may be successfully rebuked.
When it’s time to make closing arguments in court, a single attorney for the plaintiff delivers their argument first. In an effort to persuade the jury to reach a favorable verdict for their client, lawyers employ various rhetorical techniques such as emotional appeals, logical reasoning, reexamination of evidence, and powerful storytelling.
After the plaintiff has presented their closing argument, it will be the defendant’s turn to make their own argument. Just the same as the plaintiff’s team, a single, practiced lawyer will deliver their argument, likely employing many of the same tactics as used by your own legal team. The advantage the plaintiff’s side has, however, is that once the defendant’s lawyer has finished their closing argument, they are able to deliver a rebuttal closing argument if they choose. For this reason, your lawyer should be paying avid attention and taking detailed notes throughout the defendant’s closing argument so that they can make an impactful rebuttal statement. Once they have, the defendant does not get their own rebuttal, and closing statements will come to an end.
How Lawyers Can and Should Present Closing Arguments
While attorneys enjoy a certain degree of flexibility during closing arguments, there are still restrictions on what they can say that they must abide by. If they don’t adhere to these laws and regulations, they may find themselves facing objections from the other side, or it can even result in a mistrial. But beyond just knowing what rules to follow, your lawyer should also know and be practiced delivering strong and persuasive closing arguments.
They should always discuss evidence and witness credibility in their closing statement. They are permitted to re-present evidence and facts directly to the jury again, but only if these items and statements were previously presented in the trial. No witnesses will be placed back on the stand, but attorneys may repeat witness testimonies, show documents, and present exhibits as needed.
In hand with going over the facts of the case, they are permitted to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence and highlight inconsistencies or contradictions that might impact the jury’s perception. Evaluating the credibility of witnesses and pointing out potential biases or motives can also be done within the boundaries of acceptable closing arguments.
Attorneys are also permitted to draw reasonable inferences from the presented evidence during their closing arguments. This means they can make logical deductions and propose conclusions that are strictly supported by the facts of the case. However, it is essential that they absolutely ensure these inferences are based on the evidence presented during the trial and do not rely on speculation or personal opinion.
Lawyers can and should also outline and explain the applicable legal standards and burdens of proof to the jury, ensuring they understand the criteria they must consider when they deliberate later on. By clarifying these legal concepts, attorneys assist the jury in making an informed decision aligned with the law.
What Lawyers Are Not Allowed to Do During Closing Arguments
While closing arguments provide an opportunity for attorneys to present persuasive arguments, there are several strict boundaries on what they cannot say. First and foremost, they are required to refrain from making statements that are not supported by the evidence presented during the trial. Speculation, personal opinions, or unverified claims have no place in closing arguments. Similarly, lawyers are prohibited from engaging in personal attacks against opposing counsel, witnesses, or the defendant. Maintaining professionalism and focusing on the facts of the case is crucial.
Lawyers are also not permitted to reference or discuss evidence that was deemed inadmissible by the judge. It’s their responsibility to familiarize themselves with the court’s rulings on the admissibility of evidence and ensure they adhere to these limitations during their closing arguments. Violating this rule can result in objections or even a potential mistrial.
Attorneys are obligated to accurately present the law and the facts of the case. Misstating the law or misrepresenting the facts in an effort to manipulate the jury’s understanding is considered unethical and can also lead to sanctions or mistrials. Maintaining integrity and honesty is essential to upholding the principles of the legal profession.
There are even more specific statements that lawyers are not permitted to make during their closing arguments or anywhere during the duration of the trial. They range from prohibited emotional requests of the jury like “put yourself in my clients shoes” to compensatory claims unbacked by logic, such as attempting to calculate exam per-diem damages their client should receive. That’s why, at this late stage in the trial, it’s so important for your lawyer to craft their statement with the utmost care and attention to detail.
By summarizing and interpreting the evidence in an engaging and persuasive manner, but while still remaining within the boundaries of acceptable statements, your expert legal team can effectively advocate for your position at this very last possible turning point in the trial, helping the jury to see how and why you deserve the damages you’re seeking.
If you’re in need of a personal injury trial lawyer or trial co-counsel, Finney Injury Law is here to help. Our team of experienced trial attorneys provides top-notch legal support to help you achieve the best possible outcome in your case. We understand how difficult it can be to navigate the legal system on your own, especially when you’re dealing with the aftermath of an injury. That’s why we work tirelessly to ensure that you’re well-informed and prepared every step of the way. Contact us today at 314-293-4222 to schedule a consultation and let us help you fight for the justice you deserve.
Posted Under: Litigation/Trial