Strategy question for lawyers

Took a shot at which forum to put this and here we are. Most people get their taste of lawyering from TV and movies. We always see the very dramatic closing arguments. The prosecutor will give a very clear and concise speech and you think the defendant is buried. Then the defense gets up and has the jury nodding or crying and eating out of his hand within 30 seconds.

Now flip over to reality. In most big trials closing arguments can take a couple of days or more for each side. Each side goes over every aspect of the testimony in exacting detail. My question to the lawyers is this: is this a good strategy? Don’t you risk losing the jury because you are boring them with facts that they have already heard? I’m sure there are reasons for this but it seems redudant to me. Wouldn’t it be better if you do your best Paul Newman impression and win over the jury? Any trial lawyers please share your tactics with us.

No, they don’t. I had a trial that lasted a week and a half a few months ago, and closing arguments lasted about 45 minutes per side, and even that was only because the judge didn’t give us any time limits. I’m not sure where you’re getting the notion that closing arguments take so long, but it’s really not the case.

Well Clarence Darrow was famous for his closing arguments. I believe they usually lasted an hour or more, and sometimes vastly longer.

But he had short concise ones too. In a lot of ways he probably is the best real life example of the ultra-charismatic defense lawyer you see on TV.

Also, I thought the prosecution got the final word? I thought they got the final closing statement in a criminal trial…

In my opinion, our court system is badly flawed and favors money over the truth, as so many cases present.

It will depend on the procedural law of the particular jurisdiction. The common law procedure, which Canada has retained, is that if the defence has not called any evidence, the Crown makes closing argument first, then the defence. However, if the defence has entered evidence, then the defence closes first, followed by the Crown.

This approach was challenged under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, on the basis that it favoured the Crown over the accused, but the Supreme Court of Canada upheld it on a 5-4 split: R. v. Rose.

With regard to the question in the OP - I don’t do trial work myself, but the Beloved does. Her view is that any address to the jury should be no more than ~ 45 minutes, because if you can’t explain your case in that amount of time, you’ve not done your job properly in putting it in. It’s the witnesses that make the case, and counsel’s job is to make the overall argument as to result.

Would you like it better if I said many instead of most? Obviously I am not talking about the usual trial which goes for several days only.

Although I have been in court many times I don’t stick around to see all the testimony or closing arguments. I am mostly asking about the long drawn out trials they report about on TV. I’m pretty certain that OJ’s closing arguments lasted much more than 45 minutes. I’ll bet the arguments for the Laci Peterson trial go a lot longer than 45 minutes too. I don’t know if its a matter of ego or if the lawyers feel they need to rehash every bit of information which was presented over weeks of testimony. It seems like a bad strategy to me. I think if I was on the jury I wouldn’t want to hear everything again. I assume that there have been studies or papers written on this so I was hoping that someone had some answers.

" I don’t know if its a matter of ego or if the lawyers feel they need to rehash every bit of information which was presented over weeks of testimony. It seems like a bad strategy to me. I think if I was on the jury I wouldn’t want to hear "

Could it be the matter of the $500.00/hour fee?Nah! We’re talkin justice here! :wally

Nah, Ralph, by the time they get to closing arguments they’ve already billed tons of hours. Tacking on one or two just to screw the client a little bit more is not necessary.

Of more importance re: the OP, if a lawyer were to actually cause members of the jury to break down and cry, that would be a Very Bad Thing. They’re supposed to be impartial. That’s likely to be grounds for a mistrial. Now, if that goes in the lawyer’s favor, that works… for that trial. Next time that lawyer comes up before the judge, he better watch it.

My beloved is also a trial lawyer & former prosecutor. IIRC, attorneys can say just about anything they want during their opening and closing statements, including things that weren’t introduced into evidence during the trial! Open & close are a mix of reminders of the big key points made during the trial and storytelling time, and the attorney with the most compelling story can win.

I will ask him to clarify when he gets back.

That is interesting because it seems to be different here in Australia. A guy I work with was on a conspiracy trial for weeks and during the prosecutor’s closing argument the defence attorney suddenly jumped up and objected. The jury was taken out for legal argument. They could not work out what the prosecutor had said that caused the objection. They were recalled and the case declared a mistrial. Apparently the prosecutor had “asserted as fact something not proven in evidence.” Anyhow it flushed lots of money down the tubes.

Well, I plead guilty to getting my ideas about lawyers and trials from TV and movies, so I guess that’s why I’m about to ask a dumb question: Isn’t it more or less routine for lawyers to try to manipulate a jury’s emotions? You know, something like: " … and so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, because of the extreme negligence of the defendent, my client, the young mother of four helpless children whom you see before you in a leg cast, a neck brace and a wheelchair, is no longer able to care adequately for her family." Okay, it might not be quite as blatant and obvious as that, but I would assume lawyers would try to get a jury to identify as much as possible with their clients. I know darn well I’d play a card like that if I were dealt one.

Short and sweet.