Opening Statement & Jury Argument
A Learning-by-Doing Course
in Courtroom Persuasion
Spring 2018

copyright © ray moses 2005-2018

I ain't got the words!

Even our foremost political thinkers suffer from
foot-in-mouth-disease (verbal challenges). (1)

"Your argument is sound ... all sound."
  Benjamin Franklin   (antanaclasis)

Billy: You have to see the Gambinis in action? I mean, these people, they love to argue. I mean they live to argue.
Stanley: My parents argue too. It doesn't make them good lawyers.
Billy: Stan, I've seen your parents argue. Trust me, they're amateurs.
My Cousin (Counsel) Vinny

Trial lawyers spend a goodly portion of their legal lives preparing and making jury speeches. To function effectively in the courtroom, you'll have to learn what to say, how to say it, and when.

Opening statement is the takeoff, and jury argument is the landing.
You've got to be there for both of 'em.

Great openings and closings are about content, design, and delivery.

Communicating well with your jurors ... it's the hallmark of persuasive lawyering at opening and closing.

Talking and eloquence are not the same: to speak and to speak well are two things.
A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.
Benjamin Jonson

The arguments that students are taught to make in law school classes,
the unreasonable kind about how many fairies can dance on the head of a pin,
are not the arguments that top lawyers make to juries at the courthouse.

Houston's own Mark Lanier, lawyer and part-time preacher, tells Harvard law students how to obtain multi-million $ verdicts with inventive openings and jury arguments. (watch video)
Here's Lanier's view of himself and asbestos.

The opening statement is the most important part of a trial.
Winning at Trial, NITA

Whoever tells the best story wins.

It all started when ...

Our Class - A Blended Learning Event of Study, Performance, and Reflection

Do you want to be able to deliver a jury speech with the eloquence of sagacious Atticus Finch (the late and magnetic Gregory Peck) in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (VIDEO) (1)? Maybe you identify more with the energy young actor Matthew McConaughey in John Grisham's A Time to Kill (VIDEO) or the redeemed Frank Galligan depicted by the late Paul Newman) in The Verdict or the catchiness of the glass of water demonstration in actor Gary Oldman's opening statement in Criminal Law or the jury speech of Edward Norton in The People v. Larry Flynt or the "show mercy" plea of young Kirk Douglas as the court martial defense lawyer in Paths of Glory (VIDEO) or Spencer Tracy in the role of defender Henry Drummond (Clarence Darrow) in the Scopes "Monkey Trial" as depicted in Inherit the Wind (VIDEO - opening statement in bench trial) or Kevin Costner arguing as New Orleans DA Jim Garrison in the trial of Clay Shaw depicted in the movie JFK or even rascally neophyte lawyer Vincent LaGuardia Gambini (character actor Joe Pesci) in the enduring My Cousin Vinny. The closing plea of Sir Thomas Moore, played by Paul Scofield, in A Man for All Seasons is a classic. So too the closing argument of Emile Zola in defense of himself and Captain Dreyfus delivered by actor Paul Muni in the The Life of Emile Zola. Some films have shown how argument can be used to convict the innocent, e.g., this (VIDEO) clip of the Crown's final argument from In the Name of the Father.

During Spring of 2017, CCJA will conduct a litigation skills course on the subjects of Opening Statement and Jury Argument, AKA "Opening and Closing." The primary goal of the course is enrich your ability to project confidence, competence, and credibility in opening and closing your jury trials when you speak on (not "in") behalf of your client. In the process, we'll boost your skill in planning and preparing your message for courtroom presentation. The focus will be on development of analytical, forensic, and technical skills that successful trial lawyers must master to convince jurors to accept a point of view and persuade them to return a favorable verdict. Unlike traditional law school classes where you are rewarded with high grades for making every conceivable legal argument, we will be looking for the right arguments, the kind that appeal to common sense and don't insult the juror's intelligence.

We will concentrate on these aspects of the jury speeches that open and close trials:
  • Deciding what our goal is (Intention)
  • Figuring out which arguments support our goal (Warrant)
  • Determining what order to say it in (Sequence or Arrangement)
  • Remembering what to say (Memory)
  • Saying it well (Style or Delivery)
  • Accompanying our jury speech with persuasive non-verbals (Kinesics)

The approach, described further below, will combine collaborative learning, reading, class discussion, fieldwork, simulation, and critique.

Skill-Building Methodology

In the simulations, we'll employ the "learning-by-doing" method, putting skills into practice. Ours is a four-step process that allows us to learn from our mistakes. Step One is to study and read about the techniques we are trying to master. Step Two is to perform the techniques. Step Three is to reflect upon the way we performed the techniques and learn to spot and correct mistakes. Step Four is to integrate what we have learned into our practice. In this mode, experience truly can become the best teacher.

We'll study the psychology of persuading jurors and the legal constraints that courts place on what can be said in opening and closing. We'll delve into the art and science of storytelling, theme (the recurring representation that characterizes your case) building, and argumentation in a hands-on manner, using videos of real trials as our case models. We'll focus on analyzing and critiquing modes, strategies, and styles of audience-centered argumentation, including, choosing powerful language and non-verbal skills that empower, motivate, and involve jurors.

The approach will be both collaborative and competitive. Class members will be working with one another in 4-person (mini-law firm) teams. The learning will be participatory and practical. Lectures will be kept to a minimum.  Everyone in the class will have the opportunity to deliver opening statements and jury arguments. We'll explore the use of convincing visuals during opening and closing. Among other things, you'll learn how to be more precise and compelling in expressing your case, how to confute (conclusively refute) and/or refute your opponent's argument, and how to appeal to your juror's emotions without being syrupy.  

Use of Trial Story DVDs as Real-World Models for Preparing and Delivering Openings and Closings

As one basis for learning to prepare and deliver openings and closings, our class will use a series of edited DVD Trial Story vignettes. Each trial story contains the actual direct and cross-examination of a real contested criminal trial. The alleged crimes and defenses differ in each Trial Story. We will use different Trial Stories each semester. In the upcoming course, we'll focus on the following four Trial Stories: Trial Story One is a case of alleged statutory rape by a 34-year-old female special education teacher on a 16-year-old male student. Trial Story Two is a manslaughter case in which a neighborhood baby-sitter is charged with causing the death of an infant by angrily shaking the child. Trial Story Three is a manslaughter case  in which a 17-year-old male was shotgunned to death on the front porch of the accused whose yard had been "wrapped" by Halloween pranksters. Trial Story Four is an injury-to-a- child case based on an allegation of the defendant's reckless omission to seek treatment for her son, who had been provided with a lethal dose of alcohol by the defendant's boyfriend. 

The Trial Story DVDs will provide the substance for the live presentations of openings and arguments by class members. At various points (Weeks Three, Six, Nine, and Twelve) in the semester, each class member will have the opportunity to make a complete opening statement or jury argument for the prosecution or the defense.  By the end of the course, you will have made a prosecution opening, a defense opening, a prosecution argument, and a defense argument. DVDs of the direct and cross of each Trial Story will be provided to each class member several weeks before oral presentations of openings and closings for that particular case. The Trial Story DVDs initially provided to you will not include the actual opening and closing delivered by the real-life attorneys in the crime story. After presenting our openings and closings for a Trial Story, we will have the opportunity to view the actual openings and closings given by the real prosecutors and defenders in the case and reflect on how our efforts approximated or deviated from the actual openings and arguments. These exemplars of actual openings and closings will serve as a focal point for discussion, critique, and self-analysis. While practicing won't make you perfect, it is guaranteed to make you more confident in your ability for critical thinking, designing and delivering  persuasive jury speeches, and exhibiting grace under pressure.

Critical Study and Analysis of Actual Openings and Jury Arguments by World Class Lawyers in Famous Cases

During the semester we will read, analyze, and discuss articulate openings and jury arguments made by outstanding lawyers in famous and infamous cases. One of our goals in is to study, analyze, and learn how we may adapt certain forensic techniques and text used in these openings and arguments to situations that will confront us in the courtroom. Another goal is to so equip ourselves that, when we need to compose and deliver a jury argument, the right words will spring to mind.  We'll have the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business. The transcripts include openings and arguments from such cases as:

USA v. John DeLorean (automaker charged with drug smuggling)
Illinois v. John Wayne Gacy (serial killer)
New York v. Bernhard Hugo Goetz ("The Subway Vigilante") 
USA v. Patricia (Patty) Hearst (kidnapped heiress charged with bank robbery)
USA v. John Hinckley (would-be assassin of Ronald Reagan)
USA v. Imelda Marcos (first lady of the Philippines charged with fraud)
Virginia v. Marv Albert (highly regarded sports commentator convicted
of assault on female companion during sex tryst) (1)
California v. Huey Newton (founder of the activist Black Panther
Party charged with murder)
Texas v. Jack Rubenstein Alias Jack Ruby (slayer of Lee
Harvey Oswald charged with murder)
Georgia v. Wayne Bertram Williams ("The Atlanta Murders")
USA v. Randall Weaver ("The Rebel of Ruby Ridge")
California v. Simpson ("The O.J. Case")

The lawyers include such luminaries as Gerry Spence, F. Lee Bailey, Barry Slotnick, William Kunkle, Melvin Belli, Oscar Goodman, Dick DeGeurin, Barry Scheck, Lewis Slaton, Roy Black, Johnny Cochran, and others.

Written Materials - Sample Stock, Standard, and Swank Openings and Arguments

Class members will have access to two how-to-do-it reference guidebooks, i.e., The Last Word and Jury Argument in Criminal Cases, that provide research on the psychology of persuasion, proven tactics for moving jurors, and a building block database of over 5500 sample openings and arguments on general subjects such as:

Role and Duty of the Jury
Burden of Proof
Reasonable Doubt
Presumption of Innocence
Court's Instructions
Circumstantial Evidence
Credibility of Witnesses
Refutation and Reply
Quotes, Demonstrations, Analogies, and Metaphors
Call to Arms

We'll also be able to review sample openings and arguments regarding specific crimes,including:

Criminal Homicides
:Defenses, e.g., Alibi, Character and Reputation,
Involuntary Confessions, Entrapment, Insanity,
Misidentification, Necessity, Self-Defense, etc.

Finally, we will have access to punishment arguments on such subjects as:

The Death Penalty
Character and Background of the Defendant


In order to gain practical experience through firsthand observation, each student is asked to venture to the civil or criminal courthouse (Harris County Civil and Criminal Justice Centers, a 201 Caroline and  1201 Franklin respectively) and observe one actual opening statement and/or one actual jury argument during the course of the semester. Another fieldwork alternative is to record a video interview of a practitioner's advice re opening and closing. An analysis of the opening and/or closing you observe will be filed on the class E-Discussion Forum group page and included in your opening & closing trial practice journal. After the trial(s) has concluded, you should make a sincere effort to interview the lawyers, prosecutors and defenders, concerning their views on preparation and delivery of opening and closing. Student videos of practitioner interviews will be posted on the streaming video and make available to the other students enrolled in the course.

[Note: In the past, the Harris County District Attorney kindly allowed us to conduct personal and individual interviews with a dozen seasoned trial court prosecutors (all volunteers). These prosecutors shared their views on preparing and delivering opening statements and jury arguments for the government. The edited reports of the informative interviews are archived on the course E-Discussion Forum group, available for all O&C skills course enrollees to read and/or download. Some of these edited interviews are posted on the Jury Argument in Criminal Cases web site.]

Special Guests from the Real World

On several occasions, we may have the good fortune of having a skilled trial advocate visit with us in person or by DVD and deconstruct an opening and or closing from a noteworthy case. Here's the line-up of some courtroom superstars who have been with us in the past:

  • Kelly Siegler, a terrific prosecutor (now in private practice) recognized as one of the forty top women litigators in the entire United States, discusses the structure and presentation of her acclaimed opening and closing in the Susan Lucille Wright mariticide case; the defendant who relied on self-defense was convicted of stabbing her husband 193 times after binding him to the marital bed with ligatures; Wright was sentenced to 25 years; she was later granted a new sentencing hearing based on the ineffectiveness of her trial counsel and her sentence was reduced to 20 years. Ms. Siegler, using the infamous Wig Shop Murder as an example, also discusses How to Prepare and Deliver Openings and Closings in Circumstantial Evidence Cases. The Wig Shop Murder was the first of a line of several circumstantial evidence murder cases, the most recent being the David Temple uxoricide case (1 -Temple opinion), in which Ms. Siegler bested our next guest, the nationally renowned Dick DeGuerin.
  • Dick DeGuerin (1), a lawyer famous for defending politicians, e.g., Senator K. Bailey Hutchinson, Former Congressman Tom DeLay, accused drug smugglers, and wife/husband  murderers, e.g., David Temple, speaks to us about his winning online opening statement and his jury argument, a transcript of which is included in your course materials, in the high-profile Galveston County murder trial of Robert Durst and how each figured into the acquittal of Mr. Durst, a defendant with a $2 billion net worth and a willingness to spend whatever was necessary for investigation. We learn how co-counsel, noted defender Mike W. Ramsey, eloquently performed the dirty job in the defense opening statement of arguing (successfully) why Durst's decapitation and butchering of the victim's corpse had nothing to do with facts giving rise to self-defense at the time of the killing. We hope to find time to also present the video of Mr. Ramsey's stylish closing argument in Durst. 
  • Super-charged, super- effective, white-collar criminal defense advocate lawyer Dan Cogdell deconstructs the winning opening statement and jury argument he gave in the federal Enron Barge case, where he registered the only jury acquittal in all of the contested Enron trials. Dan also discusses his winning opening and closing in the recent murder trial acquittal of a Texas A&M student charged with the College Station barroom stabbing death of a Rice University basketball player. Dan shares his opening and closing online with us. 
  • Skilled defense attorney Andy Drumheller, who delivered the captivating opening statement for the defense in the sexual assault trial of NBA Hall-of-Famer Calvin Murphy, explains the way he structured and presented his highly regarded opening to help achieve an acquittal on all six indictments.
  • The late Judge Mike Anderson (elected as Harris County District Attorney in 2013 and untimely departed this life in 2014 ) and former District Judge Roger Bridgwater, talked about Opening and Closing in Felony Court, and County Criminal Court at Law Judge Jay Karahan visits with us on Tips from the Bench on Opening and Closing in Misdemeanor Court Trials.
  • Nationally acclaimed defense attorney Rusty Hardin (1 -profile) talks about Planning and Presenting The Winning Argument in a Six Count Sexual Assault and Indecency with a Child  Case and preparing his opening statement in the Roger Clemens perjury trial. This coincides with our analysis of the transcript of the defense jury argument in the highly publicized Calvin Murphy case in which Rusty and his defense team secured jury acquittals on all charges for the "pocket rocket" NBA Hall of Fame and the opening statement in the Roger Clemens case where an acquittal also occurred.
  • Local defense attorney Stanley Schneider gives us some insight into the problems he had in Opening and Closing with Technology in his effort to win an acquittal in the retrial of the Max Soffar Triple Homicide Case (The Pool Hall Murders). Unfortunately, despite his gallant effort, Schneider suffered a disappointing defeat in the retrial of the 25-year-old case. 
  • World-class capital defender Katherine Scardino (the first local lawyer in modern days to secure an acquittal in a capital case) dispenses wisdom about Opening and Closing for the Defense in Capital Cases with Emphasis on the Punishment Argument.
  • Legendary civil trial lawyer Howard Nations, who represents both plaintiffs and defendants in catastrophic injury cases, discusses the Trilogy of Persuasion: Voir Dire, Opening Statement and Summation. Mr. Nations, former President of the Southern Trial Lawyers Association and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, founded the highly acclaimed ATLA (now the American Association for Justice) College of Advocacy; Nations is widely regarded as the "granddaddy" of technology (1) in the courtroom. His web site is without peer in providing the legal community with useful information.
  • DWI/DUI guru Gary Trichter, the charismatic "cowboy" (trick shooting from horseback a la Buffalo Bill) lawyer, who literally wrote the book on how to try driving under the influence cases shares his views on how to open and close for the defense in DUI cases, basing part of his presentation on his lauded Jury Summation According to the Code of the West, a copy of  which is included in the O&C course  materials.
  • Death penalty prosecutor Lyn McClellan, former Chief of the Trial Bureau of the Harris County District Attorneys Office and a veteran courtroom warrior who has successfully tried more death penalty cases (well over thirty) than any prosecutor in the death penalty capitol of the nation, chats with us about opening and closing in the guilt and punishment phases of capital cases.  Lyn focuses on the transcript of the opening and closing from one of his many significant capital cases, the "Bowling Alley Murders"
  • Using one of his recent successful cases as a model, vehicular crimes expert Brent Mayr shares his skill in opening and arguing criminally negligent homicide cases, where the mens rea is often the greatest stumbling block for the prosecution and the centerpiece of the defense contention that the conduct is appropriate for the civil rather than criminal court.
  • My friend Jen Falk, Chief Prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney's Office, and venerable defense lawyer Jim Stafford provide a case study of their openings and closings at the guilt and punishment phases of a (First-48) violent car-jacking case that involved fascinating evidentiary issues related to proof of uncharged misconduct under Rule of Evidence 404(b).
  • Brilliant trial lawyer and former president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Assn., Jan Woodward Fox discusses opening and closing in civil and criminal cases. Ms. Fox (1 - perennial Tx. superlawyer) is board certified in civil trial law and criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. She practices in the area of civil litigation, criminal law, personal injury, medical malpractice and employment law. Educated at Harvard University, Radcliffe College and the University of Paris, Ms. Fox graduated from the University of Texas.
  • Mr. Mark Bennett of Bennett & Bennett discusses openings and closings with an emphasis on federal practice. See his web site Fight the Feds. Not only is Bennett an effective trial lawyer, his blog Defending People has been voted by the members of the American Bar Association as the best criminal defense blog in the United States. If you like courthouse gossip. you are fortunate to live in Houston, the same town as Bennett; he often hones in on local happenings in and around our courthouses.
  • Dynamic and highly successful civil trial lawyer Don Kidd of Perdue & Kidd shares his courtroom experience, energy, and wisdom as he takes us inside the preparation and presentation of opening and argument in a wrongful death action resulting in a $10m verdict for his client. He provided each of us in advance of his visit with a transcript copy of all the openings and closings in the case. Don, one of Texas' most personable lawyers, is highly skilled in complex personal injury and products liability litigation, e.g., (1). He's also past president of the Houston Trial Lawyers Association.
  • We are joined by the dean of the Harris County criminal defense bar and a true gentleman - George Parnham, the attorney who guided Andrea Pia Yates through two murder trials for the drowning deaths of her five children - the latter retrial resulting in an acquittal by reason of insanity. George has figured in many highly publicized cases, e.g., the so-called "Murder by Mercedes" case involving an attractive dentist, Clara Harris (1 - Oprah show), who ran over her philandering husband three times in the parking lot of the Nassau Bay Hilton Hotel, the site of their wedding, as he was leaving with his mistress. George's life as a criminal  defense lawyer was featured on this segment of 20-20. For one of George's recent cases, see 48 Hours Mystery - Shootout at the Hill's focusing on another wife - this one gunning down her husband in the family home; the Hill murder trial ended in a hung jury; upon retrial, just before it looked like the jury would be hung again, Mr. Parnham negotiated a 10-year deferred adjudication probation sentence for his client. (1) George is calm, soft-spoken and a great tactician. Juries love this seasoned warrior because they can trust him to shoot straight with them - a good example of what classic rhetorician Aristotle had in mind when he discussed Ethos (the credibility of the speaker).
  • J.D. "Bucky" Allshouse is thought by many to be the best family lawyer in the Gulf Coast region of Texas.  Bucky, who is a board certified specialist in family law and listed in Best Lawyers in America for the past two decades, will visit with us concerning opening and closing in family law cases, including divorce, property division, prenuptial litigation, and child custody. (See poem in sidebar.) This is a highly specialized area of the law where many of the contested cases are tried to the court. We'll get some insight about how to prepare and present opening and argument when the judge is the decision-maker. Mr. Allshouse is a longtime member of the Board of Trustees at Rice University where he was an All-Southwest Conference defensive back.      
  • Nationally recognized civil plaintiff's attorney Nick Nichols, senior partner of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, provides his insight in how to prepare openings and jury arguments in personal injury cases. As a teaching device, Mr. Nicols, a member of the exclusive Inner Circle of Advocates, focuses on his "Million Dollar Argument" in the personal injury case of his client Houston Rocket Rudy Tomjanovich who was assaulted (Battery was the tort.) on the basketball court by LA Laker Kermit Washington. The LA Laker organization was the defendant under a respondeat superior theory. [Aside: Mr. Nichols' law firm donated the funds to build the practice courtroom in which we hold our O&C sessions.] 

Web-Based Online Learning

The course has its own web site with an enormous amount of password protected advocacy resource material. From there, we will also be able to examine, study, and analyze written and video excerpts of openings and arguments from a variety of cases, e.g., the David Westerfield child murder case, the Menendez brothers matricide and patricide case, the "O.J." case, the Charlie Manson Tate-LaBianca slayings, etc. These Internet sources will supplement our viewing of video excerpts of openings and closings in other noteworthy cases, e.g., the murder trial and acquittal of billionaire Robert Durst who dismembered and secreted the body of the deceased after the homicide, the manslaughter trial of ex-basketball star Jayson Williams, the wife-murder (uxoricide) trial of Dr. Dirk Grinegar, etc. Class members will also learn about some superb, free, fast Internet resources that can be of great help in planning, preparing, and presenting opening statements and jury arguments.

Opening and Closing Practice Manual for How-to-Do-It Guidance

Each course member will be provided at no cost with a DVD Opening and Closing Practice Manual containing over 1300 pages of how-to-do-it advice on making opening statements and jury arguments. Some of the material may serve as a nucleus for your opening and closing resource files.

Work Product Journal for Keeping Track of Your Written Work Product

Your Work Product Journal will serve as a depository for any work product generated during the course. Work product may include research notes, narrative write-outs of opening and closings, outlines, feedback critiques of your colleagues' work, your colleagues' feedback of your efforts, forensic and critical legal analysis of transcripts of arguments given in famous cases, briefs of current case law regarding what lawyers may or may not legitimately say in openings and closings, comments about videos of openings and arguments in our class library, possible objections during opening and closing, your own collection of sample openings and arguments, notes from our class discussions, guest presentations, etc. You'll be given grade credit for the self-generated contents of your Work Product Journal, and it will be returned for you to keep.

E-Discussion Group

Each member of the class will belong to the class E-Discussion Forum. It takes about three minutes to register for the E-Discussion Forum using your own chosen email (email) address. This Internet group allows us to post written email feedback and critiques of our colleagues' openings and closings. Each student in the class receives all of the email messages posted to the group by the other members of the class. The Forum may be used for sharing information, comments, queries, etc. It is a simple matter for each student to file all relevant class emails. The E-Discussion Forum web site provides a permanent archive of all filings from every student. This web based group also allows the instructor to share useful information and provide feedback.

Collaborative Learning

Enrollment is limited. The class will be comprised of a maximum of 16 students, who will be divided into four mini-law firms (teams) of four. The team approach to some of the advocacy tasks will provide students with the opportunity to work cooperatively and collaboratively in a small group to achieve a beneficial end. You will be working with the members of your mini-law firm team and networking with the other teams. [Note: Although law school teaches students to compete with one another, successful real-life lawyers must learn to collaborate and work with their colleagues. Because there is strength in numbers, real lawyers, even solo-practitioners, usually try cases with a sidekick.]

Videotaping of All Performances

You are a pivotal part of your message. When you see and hear yourself on video performing in a courtroom setting, you have a window into how you come across as an advocate. Watching and listening to yourself gives you an insight into how you are communicating with your body and words. Your Trial Story performances will be available on streaming video (password protected) within a few days after they are delivered.

All student performances (presentations) of individual Trial Story openings and closings will be videotaped for self-analysis, peer review, and teacher feedback. Our class will meet in a Trial Advocacy Practice Courtroom. This courtroom is outfitted with built-in electronic equipment (projector, laptop, document camera) and multiple wall-mounted video cameras that allow our video technician to provide you with a high quality video record of all your presentations. Your personal videotape or DVD will be invaluable when reflecting upon critiques from the instructor and colleagues, as well as when you do a self-evaluation at the end of the course. [Note: We will have a state-of-the art laptop in place for every Trial Story presentation for your visuals. Your will be encouraged to use courtroom technology, e.g., visuals such as PowerPoint slides, to complement/supplement your oral presentations of opening statement and jury argument.].


The course grade will be based on a panoply of factors, including, but not limited to, the following: your dedicated effort in planning, preparing, and presenting openings and arguments; your write-outs and key word outlines of Trial Story openings and arguments; your written and oral  feedback and critiques of your colleagues' presentations; your classroom presentation of stories; your preassigned reading and written and oral analysis of transcripts of openings and closings; your briefs and oral presentation of a recent case involving what may or may not lawfully be said in opening or argument; your preparation of a file/ collection of eloquent lines for use in your openings/closings; any suggested tips and/or tactics for posting on the class' opening statement and/or argument web pages; your completion of the weekly written assignments, your effort to learn how to use plain and electronic visuals, e.g., PowerPoint, in your presentations; any fieldwork and interviewing you do, e.g., observing openings and arguments at the court house, and/or interviewing trial lawyers; your interaction with and question of our special guests; etc. [A passing word of advice: If you commit yourself to improving your advocacy presentation skills and document all of your efforts, your grade should take care of itself. It's said, "The secret joy in your work is contained in one word - excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it." With dedicated (devoted) effort to attain skill in courtroom presentation, your chosen line of work -you'll find that joy. Besides that, the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) portion of the bar examination lists writing a closing argument as one of the tasks that examinees may be required to perform.]

Any Questions?

If you want to project poised, polished, powerful, persuasive, presentation skills and want to jump start your career goal to become a courtroom warrior, you are cordially invited to join me and a small band of similarly committed students for this innovative litigation skills course. The practicum differs in content and method from the traditional curriculum. It will require time, commitment, and dedicated weekly effort. To my knowledge, no law school offers such a course. Should you have any questions about its dynamics, compass, and logistics, drop me an email and place "Opening & Closing" in the subject box.             

FAIR USE NOTICE: Some of  the video clips displayed in the sidebars of this web site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This material is displayed in an effort to advance understanding of issues of criminal justice, effective assistance of counsel, political fairness. human rights, morality, ethics, democracy, and scientific and social justice. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 1 07.The material on this web site is presented without profit to students and practitioners of criminal law who have an interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. The author of this web site claims no ownership in any video clip displayed herein.

These copyrighted pages may not be reprinted, reported, or republished, in whole or in part, electronically or in print without express
written permission. However, authorized users are permitted to download or print one copy of any page(s) for personal use.
CCJA is an independent entity. This is not an official web site of any educational institution.
No one other than the author is responsible for the content of this site or for any links from the site.

This web site and the accompanying course are designed to teach the art of persuasion in the context of the opening statement and jury argument.
Information is made available with the understanding  that neither the publisher nor the writer is rendering legal or other professional services.
If  legal advice is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. 

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Written inquiries can be addressed to: Center for Criminal Justice Advocacy, P. O. Box 22642, Houston, TX 77227-2642.
This site is written and maintained by Ray Moses and was last updated: January 5, 2018.

Opening Statement Explained
CCJA - Advocacy Skills and Techniques Explained
Crimes and Defense Explained
Criminal Trial Advocacy Course




Plaintiff's lawyer Mark Lanier at work in court delivering his "Desperate Executives" closing argument in the Vioxx medication Atlantic City, NJ.

See McDarby & Cona v. Merck, 949 A.2d 223 (2008).
"This is not CSI." 4:40

"The Punch"

Note that the lawsuit for the '"cheap shot or "sucker punch" that Washington
took against "Rudy T."
was filed against the Los Angeles Lakers not Washington, a man who
had to face his
own demons.

Keep a lookout for the six-hour documentary
for a fascinating insight into how the story of a real case develops. The plot of this real case rivals anything that Hollywood writers could dream up. It gets better as it unfolds, with twists and tuirns that surprise even the lawyers.

Remind me and we'll take a look at it.

A Word to Husbands
by Ogden Nash

To keep your marriage brimming
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong,
admit it;
Whenever you’re right,
shut up.

(Dr. Harris should have
read this.)


Lawyer Lanier tells war stories re openings and closings to students at a law school in Cambridge, MA.



Nonsensical Tactics
During Jury Argument  

-Employ the Chewbacca Defense, i.e., saying  something so patently nonsensical that the listener's brain shuts
down completely. (1)

-Develop a limp and hand your cane to one of the jurors.

-Hand the jurors some newspaper clippings that were not part of the evidence in the case? 

-Distract the jurors' attention with a shiny object - say, your pocket watch?

(If you have a noteworthy addition to the list, send it to us for publication.)

Southpark Chewbacca

Temple v. State
Case Study of Jury
Argument in a  Recent
Texas Murder Case

48 Hours
The Guessing Game
Background on the Case


Casey Anthony
Murder Trial (1)

Opening Statement

Part 1 above (Burdick) 
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12

[Note: The Defense Opening Statement in the Anthony case is not currently posted on the Internet.]

Prosecution Opening
Jury Argument

Part 1 (Ashton)
Part 2

Jury Argument

Part 1 (Baez)
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8 (Mason)
Part 9

Prosecution Rebuttal Jury Argument

Part 1 (Ashton)
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4 (Burdick)
Part 5
Part 6

Verdict : Not Guilty of Criminal Homicide (1)

Notice that in Florida the trial judge delivers the instructions on the applicable law that will govern the facts after the lawyers have finished their arguments. This makes little or no sense because a major purpose of counsel's argument is to discuss and explain how the jurors should apply the law to the facts as the jurors find them to be. In Florida the lawyers have to anticipate what the
judge will say in defining the law and argue what they think the judge will say. See Mason's argument for the defense above. For example, in Florida the judge only defines the elements of the various offenses after the lawyers have argued about whether those elements have been proven. [Mass. is another state that does it the Fla. way.]

Even the ready-fire-aim State of Texas requires that the jury be instructed on applicable law and the applications of that law to the facts as the jury may find them.before the argument of counsel. Many Texas courts will also provide each of the jurors with a written copy of those instructions before the argument.

Federal Rules allow the judge to give the closing jury instructions before, after or both before and after the arguments of counsel.

See: 48 Hours Special

Plea for Mercy
Transcript of Clarence Darrow's Plea for Mercy
Selected Excerpts
Leopold & Loeb Case

Power in Words and Figures of Speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar

Watch Brutus' Speech

Watch Marc Antony's Speech

(Delivered by Marlon Brando  as Marc Antony)
As Wikipedia says,
"After Caesar's death, Brutus delivers an oration defending his actions in killing Caesar, and for the moment, the crowd is on his side. However, Mark Antony, with a subtle and eloquent speech over Caesar's corpse—beginning with the much-quoted 'Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears'—deftly turns public opinion against the assassins by manipulating the emotions of the common people; in contrast to the rational tone of Brutus's speech, Antony rouses the mob to drive the conspirators from Rome."


Sample Argument from Dorm-Room Murder Case

Guided Imagery
in Storytelling
"Now Imagine She's White"
A Time to Kill



Michael Jackson Killing

Trial of 
Dr. Conrad Murray
Involuntary Manslaughter

Jury Argument

[More prosecution
jury argument:
(2), (3), (4), (5), (6),
(7), (8), (9 - Rebuttal),
(10 - Rebuttal)]

Sentencing (2) (3 - prosecution argument),
(4 - defense argument)

Michael Jackson Killing
Opening Statements


Orson Welles as Clarence Darrow in Compulsion pleading for the lives of two young killers. See Leopold and Loeb.