Closing Argument (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
The final factual and legal argument made by each attorney on all sides of a case in a trial prior to a verdict or judgment.
Just as trials begin with attorneys making statements about the case, they end with a direct address to the judge or jury. The OPENING STATEMENT lays out what each side intends to prove; the closing argument, which is generally more forceful, has broader ambitions. By recapitulating the facts, evidence, and testimony presented during the trial, the closing argument tries to deal a fatal blow to the opposing case while definitively proving the attorney's own. Trial lawyers put great emphasis on their closing argument, or summation, because it is their last chance to be persuasive before the judge or jury begins deliberations. An art form in itself, the closing argument often brings forth a trial's most dramatic speech, marked by criticism, appeals to emotion and reason, and florid rhetoric.
Tradition dictates only a few rules for closing arguments. Generally, in civil actions, the plaintiff's attorney speaks first and the defendant's counsel immediately follows. In criminal trials, the prosecution gives its summation, followed by that of the defense. In addition, the plaintiff's counsel or the prosecutor is allowed time for a rebuttal argument. The reason for this additional time is that the...
(The entire section is 856 words.)
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