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.
 Being disorganized.
 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.”
 Being themeless
 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.
 Being boring.
 Going on too long.