Publication Title

De Novo

Document Type



A common error made by unseasoned attorneys when giving closing argument is retelling the “story” of their case. Storytelling is best used in opening statement, not closing argument. By the time the jurors hear closing argument, they are well acquainted with the story, because they have heard two opening statements and all the evidence.

Closing argument, as the name suggests, is instead the time to argue. This means that in addition to revisiting the theme(s) presented in opening statement, a lawyer may use rhetorical questions, draw conclusions and inferences from the evidence, discuss the credibility of the witness, examine the plausibility of testimony, use analogies, and refer to stories from film and literature. Most importantly, a lawyer must walk the jury through the key jury instructions.

When a lawyer stands to address the jurors in summation, jurors expect her to explain the law and the evidence to them—to give them tools that will help them do their job. They do not want a recap of the evidence; they want to know what the evidence means for them as fact-finders. An attorney who fails to meet this expectation risks losing the jurors’ attention and misses an opportunity to prepare a “shadow advocate” to argue her case in the jury deliberation room



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