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WHAT LAUDABLE PRINCIPLES WILL A NOT GUILTY VERDICT VINDICATE?

JURY ARGUMENT

A defense lawyer’s role in defending a citizen begins long before he or she ever steps foot in any courtroom, and often, unfortunately for the party-at-interest, continues long after the verdict has been rendered. However, nowhere in this process is the advocate’s skill and talent so singularly on display as during the defense summation to the jury. Trial is theater, and closing argument of counsel is the advocate’s consummate role. What follows is a brief catalogue of what my thirty years of practice have seen work in defense of the citizen accused.

 

WHAT LAUDABLE PRINCIPLES WILL A NOT GUILTY VERDICT VINDICATE?

You must convince jurors that they can go home to their spouses, their significant others, their friends and be proud of the verdict they have rendered.

The prosecutor will often argue, and all jurors intuit, that a guilty verdict will be seen as a positive step. It is generally perceived as having the salutary effect of removing a criminal from our streets, of making us feel safe in our homes, of making jurors feel they have done a public service.

For most, a not guilty verdict poses the more troublesome image of setting another criminal free to prey upon innocent citizens. It is difficult for many to see anything positive from such an act. You must give your jurors some reason to believe they can go home with their heads held up. You must imbue them with a sense that in this case on this day a “not guilty” verdict as to this citizen will be a positive step for good; that it will expose government abuse, overreaching or corruption; that it will right an unjust accusation or suspicion; that it will redress inept, unjustified or unsavory investigative or trial practices. You must be able to convince jurors that they can go home and look their family in the eye or themselves in the mirror and say “I’ve done right!”

Jurors wield an awesome power. And with that power comes responsibility. Tomorrow, after all is said and done, the lawyers and the judge will move on to another case. The jurors will go home; but their decision will stand, and will forever have changed the life of the fellow citizen whose fate they have decided.

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