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What Is a Courtroom Speech?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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A courtroom speech usually refers to an attorney’s closing argument or summation of the evidence in the case. He or she will use a courtroom speech to persuade the judge or jury to rule in favor of his or her client. The summation might be short and to the point, or the courtroom speech could be quite lengthy. Sometimes a judge will limit the amount of time for each side to present closing arguments.

The courtroom speech represents a final opportunity for lawyers to summarize evidence presented during the trial. They often use exhibits during summation to remind the judge or jury about key points revealed in testimony from witnesses. Some attorneys appeal to emotions and employ rhetoric during this stage of the trial.

The final courtroom speech differs from an opening statement offered by lawyers on each side of a case. Opening statements typically outline what the case is about and what evidence will be presented. They generally are less persuasive and subject to court rules that keep lawyers on track. For example, attorneys usually must refrain from arguing during the opening statement. They typically withhold argument until the courtroom speech at summation.

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Legal experts say a courtroom speech should include a strong opening, an outline of what the argument will cover, and a conclusion. The opening commonly begins with something to grab attention. A lawyer might tell a story or use a quote or anecdote to ensure rapt attention is focused on him or her.

During the middle part of summation, attorneys commonly stress weaknesses in their opponent’s argument. They may try to anticipate what the other side will cover in rebuttal summation in jurisdictions where that is permitted. Lawyers typically discuss relevant law to strengthen their argument during this part of the speech, while appealing to a jury’s logic.

A summation usually concludes with a plea for a verdict that supports the attorney’s argument. He or she might repeat the main theme of the speech and end on a strong note. Some legal scholars believe the beginning and conclusion of a courtroom speech are the two most important parts of the argument.

Attorneys commonly rehearse their summations many times before addressing the judge or jury. They aim to keep the speech interesting while using a conversational tone. Lawyers usually attempt to cover all aspects of the case without creating boredom, causing attention to wane. Some lawyers inject a bit of humor into the summation if the judge or jury appears bored.

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