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Closing Argument: Outline, Themes & Example

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  • 0:01 What Is a Closing Argument?
  • 0:33 Closing Argument Outline
  • 1:27 Themes
  • 3:35 Examples
  • 5:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Learn what constitutes a closing argument. Review the points which should be included in a closing argument. Examine closing argument themes and then review several examples.

What is a Closing Argument?

Have you ever seen a courtroom television drama play out? If so, then you've probably seen one or two depictions of the dramatic closing arguments that lawyers deliver at the conclusion of a trial. These scenes are usually powerful monologues accompanied by significantly loud and dramatic music to make them memorable.

A closing argument is the final statement an attorney makes to the jury or judge when presenting a trial. The closing argument repeats the tone of the case and provides a summary of the case.

Closing Argument Outline

When making a closing argument, it is important to follow an outline of the main points. The following overview is an outline you can use to create your own closing argument.

  • Start with a clever or interesting statement that gets to the heart of the matter. If you can, try to incorporate a theme that you can use throughout the argument. This should be something that the jury will remember.
  • Discuss the facts of the case in a way that favors your side. Tell a story of the facts in a way that the jury will relate to and remember.
  • If necessary, review the laws or evidence relevant to the case in easy-to-understand terms so the jury can understand how the law relates to your facts.
  • Provide a conclusion where you repeat what you stated at the beginning. Remember to include the clever or interesting statement once again so that the jury will recall and remember that point.

Themes

There are literally endless themes that you can use when making an argument. This is because there are so many different facts and circumstances in each case. Moreover, it depends upon whether the case is a criminal case, where the consequences of the case is a prison term and/or a fine, or a civil case, where the penalty consists of monetary damages. In other words, in a civil case, you are suing someone to get money. Each type of case will require very different types of themes.

In a criminal case, you could possibly use the following themes:

  • Mistaken identity -- the defendant did not do the crime, someone else that looked like the defendant committed it
  • Insufficient evidence -- there is not enough evidence to demonstrate that the defendant actually committed the crime
  • Police error -- the police work on the crime messed up the evidence so much during their investigation that there is no way possible the defendant, or anyone for that matter, could be held responsible for the crime
  • Alibi -- the defendant was not at the crime scene or anywhere in the area of the crime and has an alibi. An alibi is someone who will vouch for his whereabouts on the date and time of the crime.

In a civil case, the themes are different because there is no criminal aspect to the case. Therefore, the themes are more widespread, depending upon the circumstances of the crime. Civil cases could use the following types of themes:

  • Improperly made product -- the defendant failed to make a product with the appropriate level of care and therefore was negligent to the plaintiff by placing a defective product in the marketplace
  • Wrongful death -- the defendant behaved in a way that caused the plaintiff's death; this can occur in a manslaughter case where the plaintiff died due to the defendant's actions and the defendant goes to prison but is also sued in civil court
  • Medical malpractice -- the defendant, a doctor, failed to take appropriate care of the plaintiff and the plaintiff was injured as a result; in other words, the doctor was negligent in medical malpractice

Examples

Let's look at some examples to get a better understanding of a closing argument. First, let's review a closing argument in a criminal case.

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