Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An economy of words

"No one on this planet, much less in Harris County, should be convicted of a felony, with as weak as the evidence is in this case. "
And with those words, my colleague, Todd Dupont, obtained a not guilty verdict in a drug case in Harris County last week.

Quite ballsy to sit down after one sentence. A lot of time to ask yourself if you did the right thing.

There is no more succinct way to tell the jury that the state hasn't proven its case, however. In that one sentence, Mr. Dupont wrapped up the essence of both the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof.  That one sentence was more powerful than the most eloquent 30-minute speech to a jury could ever have been.

The beauty in the close is not what was said, but what wasn't said. 

Of course you can't get up every trial, give a one-sentence close and expect your client to shake your hand on the way out of the courtroom. It's got to be the right case with the right (lack of) facts with the right jury.

The question to be asked might be just how much weight does closing argument even have with a jury. We're taught that some cases are decided with jury selection - that by the time you deliver your opening, the jury has already made up its mind. Never forget that despite the eloquent and passionate speech Atticus Finch gave in that sweltering Alabama courtroom, his client, Tom, was convicted of a crime he didn't commit.

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