closing arguments | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Closing arguments are a reiteration of each side’s important arguments at the conclusion of a criminal trial.

Closing arguments are the final opportunity for attorneys to persuade the judge or jury to see their case in a favorable light before a verdict is reached. This crucial stage of a criminal trial requires attorneys to effectively summarize the evidence presented throughout the trial and highlight key points that support their argument.

Typically, closing arguments are presented in a structured manner that includes an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. During the introduction, attorneys will often use rhetorical questions or powerful statements to grab the attention of the judge or jury and set the stage for their argument.

In the body of their closing argument, attorneys will carefully review the key pieces of evidence presented throughout the trial, pointing out how each piece supports their argument. They may also highlight inconsistencies or flaws in the opposing side’s argument and evidence, seeking to discredit them and bolster their own case.

Finally, in the conclusion of their closing argument, attorneys will summarize the main points of their argument, often using emotional appeals to drive their message home. They may also make a final appeal to the judge or jury to consider the gravity of their decision and the impact it will have on the lives of those involved in the case.

Effective closing arguments can be the difference between a guilty or not guilty verdict, making it a critical component of any criminal trial. Attorneys must be skilled communicators who are able to present complex information in a clear and concise manner while also being able to appeal to the emotions of the judge or jury.

It is important to note that closing arguments are not an opportunity to present new evidence or introduce new arguments. Rather, they are a chance to summarize and reinforce the evidence and arguments that have already been presented throughout the trial.

In addition to their persuasive skills, attorneys must also be knowledgeable of the rules and regulations surrounding closing arguments. For example, some jurisdictions may limit the amount of time each attorney has to present their closing argument or may prohibit certain types of arguments.

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Last Modified: 04/18/2023

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