Mostly it’s just laying out the facts for the jury, piece by piece. One of the first rules you learn in law school is: never ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.
Sorry to piss on your parade, but it really doesn’t get less exciting than that.
In the United States of America, defendants get to pick who’ll decide their fate: a judge or a jury of their peers. I always advise my clients to go with the jury—it’s a miracle to get twelve people to agree on where they’re having lunch, let alone the guilt or innocence of a defendant. And a mistrial, which is what happens when they can’t agree, is a win for the defense.
Have you ever heard that old joke about juries? Do you really want to be judged by twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty? Yes—that’s exactly who you want judging you. Because juries are people unfamiliar with the letter of the law. And those are people who can be swayed—by lots of elements that have absolutely nothing to do with facts.
If a jury likes a defendant, they’ll have a harder time convicting them of a charge that could keep their ass in a prison cell for the next ten to twenty years. It’s why an accused thief shows up to court in a nicely pressed suit—not prisoner oranges. It’s precisely why Casey Anthony’s wardrobe and hairstyle were carefully chosen to appear sweetly demure. Sure, juries are supposed to be impartial, they’re supposed to base their judgment on the evidence presented and nothing else.
But human nature doesn’t quite work that way.
Likeability of the defendant’s legal counsel also carries weight. If an attorney is sloppy, grumpy, or boring, the jury is less inclined to believe their version of the case. On the other hand, if the defending lawyer appears to have their shit together, if they’re well spoken—and yes—good looking, studies show juries are more likely to trust that lawyer. To believe them—and by extension, believe their client.
It’s important not to look like you’re trying too hard. Not to appear shifty or sneaky—the last thing you want is to give off a “used car salesman” vibe. People know when they’re being lied to.
But, here’s the most important thing: whenever possible, you want to show them a good time. Give them something to watch. They’re expecting objections and out-of-orders, the pounding of tables and banging of the gavel. They’re hoping for a live reenactment of Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. The system may be boring, but you don’t have to be. You can be entertaining. Show them you’ve got a big swinging dick and you’re not afraid to use it.
My dick is the swingingest of them all—juries can’t take their eyes off it.
Figuratively . . . and literally.
“You may proceed with closing arguments, Mr. Shaw.”
“Thank you, Your Honor.” I rise to my feet, buttoning the jacket of my tailored gray suit. That color is a big hit these days with the ladies—and ten out of these twelve jurors are female.
I meet their collective gaze with a contemplative expression, drawing out the pause, heightening the dramatic tension. Then I begin.
“The next time I fucking see you, I will cut your balls off and shove them down your throat.”
Pause. Eye contact.
“When I find you, you’ll be begging me to kill you.”
Pause. Finger point.
“Just wait, asshole, I’m coming for you.”
I step out from behind the defense table and position myself in front of the jury box. “These are the words of the man the prosecution claims is the”—air quotes—“victim in this case. You’ve seen the text messages. You heard him admit under oath that he sent them to my client.” I click my tongue. “Doesn’t sound like much of a victim to me.”
All eyes follow me as I slowly pace, like a professor giving a lecture. “They sound like threats—serious ones. Where I come from, threatenin’ a man’s balls . . . words don’t get more fightin’ than that.”
A series of low chuckles rises up from the jurors.
I brace my arms on the railing of the jury box, glancing at each occupant just long enough to make them feel included—readying them for the divulgence of a dirty little secret.
“Over the course of this trial, you’ve heard things about my client, Pierce Montgomery, that are unflattering. Abhorrent, even. I’m bettin’ you don’t like him very much. To tell you the truth, I don’t like him much myself. He had an affair with a married woman. He posted pictures of her on social media, without her permission. These are not the actions of an honorable man.”