Closing Statements and Jury Deliberations
After the defense rests its case, the prosecution and defense will prepare their closing arguments. This is the final opportunity for both sides to communicate with the jury.
Closing arguments are a way to summarize the testimony and evidence presented, and an opportunity to ask the jury to decide in favor of that side’s argument by returning a verdict of guilty or not guilty.
Closing statements are often a focus of legal dramas on both television and in the movies. Practicing attorneys often disagree over the emotional power of closing statements. In many cases, jury members form strong opinions long before the commencement of closing statements.
For this reason, an attorney must take every opportunity to tell his client’s side of the story through witnesses, proof, and cross-examination rather than wait for a single moment of profound eloquence during closing statements.
Once closing arguments are complete, the judge will provide the jury with any final instructions before excusing the jury to deliberate alone in the jury room.
The jury is now on its own and can deliberate over the totality of the evidence presented. The jury can reach a verdict of guilty or not guilty, but the jury’s verdict of guilt must be unanimous.
Once the jury is in agreement on a verdict, they present the verdict in front of the judge, lawyers, defendant, and everyone else in open court. If the defendant is found not guilty, he/she can usually walk out of the courtroom a free person.