Monday, March 8, 2010

Judge-Jury Relationship: The Closing Argument Phase

By John DiMotto
The one phase of the trial where the judge's relationship with the jury is dependent on the judge's relationship with the attorneys is the sixth phase - the Closing Argument Phase.
This phase give the attorneys the opportunity to persuade the jury as to how the jury should decide the case based on the evidence, in light of the law, using common sense and long experiences in life. Here, the case is about the attorney-jury relationship. However, the trial judge can, and should, provide both of them with the context in order to enhance the performance of both.
I believe that in order to promote effective arguments, the trial judge should impose reasonable time limits on the attorneys. There is a saying that "the longer you talk, the less the jury listens." I believe that is true. Attorneys need to package their arguments in a neat and tidy way to get their positions across. Less does mean more. In the Opening Statement Phase, the attorneys tell the jury what they will hear and see. In the Closing Argument Phase, they should emphasize how they have done so, clearly and concisely. Attorneys should read the body language of the jurors during their arguments and take cues from it. Attorneys should also consider reinforcing their verbal arguments with demonstrative evidence - use of an easel or flip chart to highlight, in bullet point fashion, the key components of their argument.
The trial judge can and should provide a proper environment for both the attorneys and the jury for the sixth phase. In doing so, the trial judge provides the jury with the final light at the end of the tunnel as the jury gets ready to embark on their deliberations in the seventh and final phase of trial.
In my next post, I will discuss how the trial judge can promote effective deliberations.

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