2.13.2006

Closing argument

For your reading enjoyment, here's a typical closing argument in a circumstantial evidence case used by many prosecutors. Anyone out there who is/has been a prosecutor will recognize it:

Ms. Olson would like you believe that since no one actually saw the defendant steal the necklace, you don’t have to convict him. Well, you and I both know that just because no one actually saw it, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.

Those of you with children know what I mean. When your children sneak cookies from the cookie jar, you know it happened, even if you don’t see them do it, don’t you?

Why, we’ve all walked into the kitchen to find our three year olds sitting at the table with a pile of crumbs in front of them, crumbs on their hands and face, the lid to the cookie jar askew, met with adamant denials of guilt, haven’t we? But, we’re not fools—we all know what happened, even though we didn’t see it, right?

Or, to put it another way, you can figure out the big picture even if you’re missing a few pieces. That’s what circumstantial evidence is like, although the judge will instruct you more about it later. It’s like a puzzle when you’re missing just a few pieces. You’ve put all the pieces together that you have and you can tell that it’s a picture of a cowboy on a horse in front of a mountain. The puzzle pieces for the cowboy’s hat, the horse’s tail and the top of the mountain are missing, but you don’t need those pieces to know what the big picture is; just as you don’t need an eyewitness to tell you that a crime occurred.

Now, a few minutes ago, I went over each and every piece of evidence in this case with you. And, when you deliberate, I am confident that you’ll agree that the evidence clearly shows, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant forcibly ripped that necklace from Ms. Andrew’s neck, fled the scene and was apprehended just one block away within minutes, with the necklace in his possession. Members of the jury, on behalf of the People of the State of New York, I would, therefore, ask that you return a verdict of guilty; the evidence demands it. Thank you.

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