illustration of Fortunato standing in motley behind a mostly completed brick wall with a skull superimposed on the wall where his face should be

The Cask of Amontillado

by Edgar Allan Poe

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Write an epilogue to "The Cask of Amontillado" in which a case against Montresor comes to trial. In your epilogue, provide the prosecuting attorney’s closing argument, reminding the jury of any evidence that proves Montresor’s guilt. Then provide the defense attorney’s closing argument and describe the jury’s final verdict.

In an epilogue to "The Cask of Amontillado," the prosecution would probably be more straightforward, drawing directly from the text. They might emphasize that Fortunato was last seen in Montresor's company and his body was found walled up in Montresor's home. Montresor had both the means and the opportunity to kill him. The defense might argue, however, that Montresor had no known motive for such a heinous crime. They could try to throw out Montresor's testimony as inadmissible, for example, or rely on the insanity defense.

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In an epilogue , you might include that Montresor's story was overheard by someone standing outside the bedroom door while Montresor was confessing his crime to the priest. This person (you will have to decide who this is) would go to the police or authorities. The police would go into...

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In an epilogue, you might include that Montresor's story was overheard by someone standing outside the bedroom door while Montresor was confessing his crime to the priest. This person (you will have to decide who this is) would go to the police or authorities. The police would go into the catacombs, find the wall Montresor had made, and take it down to discover the skeleton chained there.

Montresor would go to trial for murder. Since this story is set in a time before modern forensics, there would be no DNA testing or other modern tools to help determine the body was Fortunato's.

In the closing arguments, the prosecution would argue along the lines that, although there were no witnesses to the deed, the person who overheard the confession was able to quickly lead authorities to the body based on what Montresor said he had done. They would mention that Fortunato disappeared right after the festival, and that Montresor had mentioned and that Fortunato's body was never found. They might perhaps argue that the skeleton was the right height to be Fortunato, and that the rotting jingling cap on his skull was consistent with the one he wore the night he disappeared. Other evidence, such as perhaps an abandoned wine bottle, would be consistent with Montresor's story, proving that the body was Fortunato's and Montresor had murdered him.

The defense would almost certainly argue that the confession was a symptom of Montresor's insanity and that he, perhaps suffering from dementia in old age, was confusing stories he had heard of a corpse being chained in the catacombs hundreds of years before with something he thought he had done. They would say Montresor was suffering from delusions of grandeur and wanting to take credit for another person's crime. They would point out that nobody could come up with any wrong Fortunato had done to Montresor that would motivate such a horrible revenge.

The jury would then have to evaluate the evidence. Could the wall built in front of the corpse be hundreds of years old? Or must it be newer? How could experts tell? Would a cap have survived hundreds of years without decomposing? The evidence would, it seems to me, point to Montresor's guilt, but since this is a Poe story, you would have to decide if justice would prevail. Would Montresor would be convicted, or would there be a more macabre ending? (Hint: in Poe stories, grim though they can be, criminals often are brought to justice.)

You would have decide what time period the story is set in. If you put it in Poe's time, there might be a police force; in an earlier time, it might be magistrates going to find the body. Also, go through the story again, find more details about what happened to build your case (did anyone who is still alive, for example, see Montresor and Fortunato leave the party together?), and try to stick as closely as possible to what the story says.

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For Montresor to be arrested and brought to trial for murdering Fortunato, there would have to be some evidence to link him to the crime. His confession would, therefore, have had to come to light, perhaps from someone overhearing it and bringing to news to Fortunato's elderly widow, who would then press charges.

The prosecuting attorney in his closing arguments would point out the confession must be true, because the police did discover a skeleton chained and walled up in the catacombs. Tests would show the chain was of relatively recent manufacture, consistent with the technology of fifty years past, and that the brick wall was also from the same period. He would also point out that Fortunato had disappeared fifty years ago, and his body had never been found. This skeleton is the same height as Fortunato and is wearing the remnants of the jingling jester's cap in which Fortunato was last seen. Given the weight of evidence, the prosecution would urge the jury to find Montresor guilty.

The defense attorney would be in a difficult situation but several avenues of defense would be open to him. First, he would question why Montresor would commit such a heinous crime? What would be the motive? Nobody, he would point out, has established any real harm that Fortunato caused Montresor. The defense could claim the witness who overhead the confession misheard Montresor, or, if he heard rightly, that Montresor was insane at the time of the murder and therefore not liable for the crime.

The jury would find Montresor guilty based on the evidence and sentence him to death or life in prison. Some justice would be done, although Montresor would be receiving his punishment near the end of his life.

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Poe's story is a work of fiction; therefore, your epilogue is also a complete work of fiction.

The first thing to decide is whether or not your epilogue is going to take place chronologically after Montresor's story or not. If it is, then this supposed court trial is happening "half a century" after Montresor's crime. It would most definitely qualify as a "cold case." Sadly, I do not think that Montresor could be convicted of a crime due to the lack of physical evidence. Montresor didn't embalm Fortunato, so the rate of decay would be fairly quick. Teeth and nails would fall out after a few weeks, and the body would begin to liquefy around the one month mark. The story likely takes place in the 18th century, so DNA identification is definitely out. All that the prosecution would be able to prove is that a skeleton was in the catacombs. Montresor could probably claim that his "story" was a complete fabrication, and nobody would likely still be alive to prove him wrong. The prosecutor could use every bit of evidence in the story to convict, but the defense attorney could claim that the story is nothing more than a work of fiction. Without proof that the body is Fortunato's body, a jury would have reasonable doubt, and they wouldn't convict Montresor.

The fictional epilogue could be made so much more interesting if the story's final sentence is ignored. Your epilogue could then pursue the possibilities of the servants coming forward about how odd it was that Montresor gave them orders not to "stir from the house." You could also bring in masonry experts that were able to tell that Montresor's brick work didn't match up quite right. I would definitely put Montresor on the stand and have a back and forth between him and the prosecuting attorney.

As for the part of the writing prompt about the jury's final verdict, that is entirely up to an individual reader's feelings about Montresor. His plan is really good, and it is fun to know that he got away with it, but it is morally reprehensible; therefore, don't hesitate to have him found out. Alternatively, you could have his guilt bubble over and have Montresor admit to the crime like the narrator of "The Tell-Tale Heart" does.

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There's not a lot of evidence to bring to bear against Montresor for his crime, but there certainly is some. A prosecuting attorney would certainly make a jury aware of the motive behind the crimes: that Fortunato has injured and insulted Montresor repeatedly. If possible, the prosecuting attorney could also find witnesses that saw them together at the festival or, even more condemning to Montresor, witnesses who saw them entering his house together, him hiding in a cloak. Indeed, what if a servant had returned early or come back for something forgotten? The final, most damning piece of evidence, of course, would come from the discovery of Fortunato's body. Montresor is convinced that he could never be caught for his crime, and he's probably right, but in the right circumstances and with the right resources someone might be able to build a case.

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There are two kinds of evidence that could be used to prosecute the narrator. One is his confession, which he has provided. The other is the body of Fortunato, which remains walled up in the catacombs. There are several complications, however, which might hinder such a case from getting past a grand jury, much less going to trial.

The narrator may be delivering this confession to a priest or an attorney, in which case the other party would be compelled to keep its contents secret. It could be a deathbed confession, and the narrator might since have died. If neither of those applies and the prosecutor is able to try the case, the narrator could invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

The other evidence would be the victim’s body. The narrator would need to provide the exact location of the body. If this does occur and it is exhumed, after fifty years there may be little or no physical evidence by which to identify the victim. As the story takes places in the 19th century, there would have been no DNA evidence and most likely no dental evidence.

A third possible line of evidence would not have been known then: there might be fingerprints on the outside of the tomb, but their use for identification did not begin until the end of the 19th century.

In sum, a confession and a body would be possible evidence but might not be adequate for trying the case.

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As a creative exercise, it seems you have a lot of latitude in an assignment such as this one. The jury can decide to either acquit or convict Montresor: that outcome is ultimately yours to determine (and furthermore, the rationale behind this decision would have just as much flexibility to it, given that it would be shaped so heavily by how you frame and imagine the trial that precedes it).

In this assignment, the prosecution's case will probably be the one that relates more directly to the text of "The Cask of Amontillado." Ultimately, in this story, Poe's narrator recounts in detail the method by which he murdered Fortunato, burying his personal enemy alive. I imagine this same account would provide the foundation for the case. In addition, it might be worth imagining whether or not Fortunato's remains might have later been discovered, and how such an outcome might affect the case in question.

In some ways, the more interesting task lies with imagining a defense. Remember, the prosecution's goal within a criminal trial is to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Thus, the defense does not necessarily need to provide a foolproof case for innocence, but can easily triumph simply by muddying the waters. With that in mind, there are several potential strategies the defense attorney might employ. For one thing, remember that within the context of Poe's story, there are ultimately only two witnesses to Montresor's crime: Montresor and Fortunato himself. Assuming that the defense can successfully have Montresor's testimony thrown out as inadmissible or untrustworthy, this would certainly cripple the Prosecution's case.

Furthermore, there is also the insanity defense: Montresor, across the story, certainly comes off as unhinged in his characterization, and this wrinkle could complicate the trial. If you do invoke the insanity defense, be aware that the Prosecution would need to account for that defense in its own closing remarks and make an argument against it.

Again, there's a lot of room for creativity and personal judgment in an assignment such as this one, with numerous approaches your answer can take.

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You would want the prosecuting attorney to tell a convincing story to establish Montresor as the murderer. You might have the prosecutor mention that Montresor was the last person seen with Fortunato before Fortunato disappeared for good. You might mention, too, that a number of witnesses the night of Carnival report having seen the two leave together, remembering them because they made a vivid and memorable pair, even at Carnival, where others were dressed up. Montresor's face was completely covered in a black mask, while Fortunato, in contrast ,wore a multi-colored party suit and a jester's cap with little ringing bells. Fortunato was clearly inebriated.

The prosecuting attorney might point out that Montresor has never provided a convincing explanation of what happened after the two were seen disappearing into his house and that, mysteriously, nobody ever saw Fortunato leave. You could point out the Montresor and Fortunato were alone in the house for a good deal of time, as the servants had all gone to Carnival. You might want to emphasize that Fortunato was last seen alive with Montresor and then found years later chained and walled up in Montresor's catacombs. You might say to the jury that the most reasonable explanation for Fortunato never having been seen again is that Montresor murdered him.

The defense attorney could point out that Montresor and Fortunato leaving Carnival together and then going to Montresor's home is no proof that Montresor murdered him. People go to each other's houses all the time. You would also probably want to emphasize that Montresor might have had the means to kill Fortunato, as well as the opportunity, but there is simply no known motive, especially for such a heinous form of murder. By all accounts, the two were close friends; Montresor always acted as if he liked Fortunato very much, and therefore there is no reason for Montresor to have killed his friend and in such a gruesome way.

I will leave it to you to decide what the jury will say. (Of course, we know that Montresor is guilty, but will a jury be convinced?)

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The defense attorney would surely build a case on an insanity plea. After all, sane people do not typically plot murder against a person who has insulted them. Montresor claims that he had endured thousands of "injuries" from Fortunato and thus plotted to seek his ultimate revenge. The defense would likely argue that a sane person who suffered such "injuries" would simply remove himself from the presence of such an offensive person.

The prosecuting attorney would likely examine the efforts that Montresor takes to commit the murder. The murder is plotted well and carried out quite effectively. Montresor lures Fortunato to the place of his death via flattery:

We will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible.

This reverse psychology (insisting they go back, with the intent of making Fortunato follow him further), combined with the flattery of making the man feel "precious...respected...admired," shows a sense of keen reasoning ability, and the prosecution would point to this and claim that it could not support a defense of insanity. The story also concludes fifty years after the murder, so the prosecution would likely point to that amount of time with no further murders as a sign that Montresor was not insane at the time of Fortunato's murder; he has proven perfectly capable of navigating society for five decades without further incident. Therefore, the prosecution would point to a targeted plot against the life of Fortunato specifically, not the workings of an insane mind.

The jury's decision should rest where you can find the most evidence, as that is how decisions are reached in courts. Can you prove through your analysis that Montresor's acts were intentional beyond "any reasonable doubt"? Here is the legal definition of first-degree murder:

An unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or "lying in wait" for the victim.

Examine your final evidence in light of this definition and determine whether this is a likely verdict.

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The Cask of Amontillado: Epilogue


Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, really, what more could you require? The defendant has confessed to this heinous crime, confessed, moreover, without the slightest sign of remorse. You also have the physical evidence of the shackled skeleton exhumed from the defendant's family vault, just in the position where there the defendant confesses to having left him. These two pieces of evidence together are surely conclusive. You must convict.


Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury, what we have here is the demented ramblings of a sick man, a man close to death, about events he claims occurred in his youth, more than fifty years ago. What is the physical evidence? A skeleton of indeterminate age, found in a catacomb full of skeletons. The defendant is describing nothing more than a bizarre revenge fantasy which he has clearly been nursing for decades. Will you really send this feeble, insane old man to prison?

The Jury either acquits outright or delivers a verdict of "not guilty by reason of insanity" (if they judge that Montresor murdered Fortunato, but was already insane at the time).

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