Sample Closing Arguments Transcripts
Following are sample transcripts that include closing arguments.
Closing Argument in a Manslaughter Case
Case: Commonwealth of Virginia v. Raelyn Balfour
Summary: This transcript is the closing argument in a high-profile case in Virginia where a mother is on trial for manslaughter for accidentally leaving her infant in a car seat in the back of her car throughout the workday. The undisputed evidence was that she forgot to drop the child off at day care, and left him in the car unintentionally. The prosecutor argues that forgetting one's child in the car amounts to a "callous disregard' for human life - the necessary standard for involuntary manslaughter. Defense lawyer John Kenneth Zwerling argues that the defendant accidentally caused the tragedy, cared deeply for her child, and cannot possibly be found to have acted in callous disregard for him. The crux of the argument focuses on the very definition of manslaughter - what it is, and perhaps what it should be as applied to an honest lapse of memory. Of note is that Mr. Zwerling plays a tape of a 911 call during the closing argument, which depicts the defendant screaming and crying as she holds her child upon realizing she forgot him the car. The jury found the defendant not guilty.
Closing Argument in a Capital Murder Case
Case: Commonwealth of Virginia v. John Allen Muhammad
Summary: This transcript is the closing argument of a very high-profile case in which a sniper is on trial for capital murder for murdering ten people and critically injuring three others over several weeks in October, 2002. Solid evidence linked the defendant’s seventeen year old co-conspirator to the murders, but the theory was that the defendant was the mastermind and in control of the crimes. The prosecutor argued that the defendant was the “immediate perpetrator” of the shooting and thus primarily responsible. In response, the defense concentrated on shifting all blame onto the co-conspirator. Note how the defense attorney is very respectful and sympathetic to all the victims and their families, but distances his client from any responsibility for those injuries. The defense also spends a lot of time defining legal terms – such as “immediate perpetrator” and “reasonable doubt” – to argue that the prosecutors did not meet their burden of proof. The defendant was found guilty of capital murder and given the death sentence.
Closing Argument in a Kidnapping and Murder Case
Case: People v. David Alan Westerfield
Summary: This is the closing argument for the defense in a California case in which a man is on trial for the kidnapping and murder of a seven year old girl. The defense attempts to discredit the physical evidence using scientific theories of contamination. Note how the defense attorney provides other logical explanations for the defendant's behavior while attempting to convince the jury that the prosecution's conclusions are illogical. This use of logic provides the jury with another, plausible explanation for who may have murdered the victims. The defendant was found guilty of kidnapping and murder.
Video Footage of Actual Closing Arguments
Closing Argument in a Murder Trial
Case: People v. Orenthal James Simpson
Summary: This is the closing argument in an infamous California murder trial, delivered by Johnnie Cochren, lead lawyer for the defense. The defendant, a famous American football player and actor, was accused of the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. The case against him was quite strong: including DNA, motive, and strong witnesses. Notice how the lawyer uses a short, catchy phrase as one of his themes: "If the gloves don't fit, you must acquit." Also note how he effectively transforms this case into a racial issue, thus proposing that a vote against the defendant is a vote for racism. The defendant was found not guilty.