How To Create A Closing Argument

by Kansas Criminal Defense Attorney Vincent Rivera

In this video Kansas criminal defense attorney Vincent Rivera emphasizes the importance of creating a persuasive narrative, understanding the mindset of both the jury and the attorney themselves, and using various techniques, hooks, and storytelling methods to engage the jury.

This presentation covers topics like

  • identifying the dominant emotion in the case,
  • arming your allies,
  • using questions effectively,
  • delivering rebuttals,
  • and addressing objections in closing arguments.

Vincent also provides insights into separating factual, legal, and damage arguments, and structuring the closing argument in a coherent and engaging manner.

Overall, Vincent is sharing his approach to delivering a closing argument that is emotionally compelling and persuasive to the jury.

This presentation is meant to help other attorneys improve their skills in this area.

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  1. Story Perspective:
    • Identify the dominant emotion in your story. Decision-making is rooted in emotions. What emotional reason supports your side's position?
    • Emotions lead the way: Use emotions to guide jurors, then reinforce with logical arguments.
    • Understand that the jury is a puzzle, with each juror fitting into a piece. Make your case resonate with each piece.
    • Understand that the jury's decision-making is influenced by emotions. Identify and harness the dominant emotion in your story to support your side's position.
    • Craft a compelling narrative that blends facts with emotions, making it relatable and memorable.
    • Divide your case into "chapters" to structure your arguments cohesively and ensure jurors follow your narrative.
  2. Jury Empathy:
    • Understand what the jury is going through. Consider their stress, which affects their perceptions.
    • Recognize that jurors remember only a fraction of what's presented, so repeat important points for better retention.
    • Avoid legal jargon that might confuse the jury, and instead speak to them in plain language.
    • Appreciate the emotional and psychological burden on jurors. Acknowledge their stress, anxiety, and the challenge of retaining information.
    • Reinforce important points through repetition without becoming redundant.
    • Replace legal jargon with plain language, ensuring clarity and comprehension.
  3. Your Mindset:
    • Always stay on the offensive. It's your case, and you should present it confidently.
    • Become the foreperson: Pretend you're a juror, not a lawyer, while presenting your case.
    • Show confidence and authenticity; jurors are more likely to trust someone who appears genuine.
    • Project unwavering confidence and authenticity as this instills trust in jurors.
    • Mentally shift from a lawyer's perspective to that of a juror. Imagine yourself as the foreperson, sitting among your peers, not just as an advocate.
    • Be proactive and maintain the offensive position in your arguments.
    • Show empathy, recognizing the jurors' role and experience in the courtroom.


  1. Hooks:
    • Engage the jurors with powerful hooks such as "trilogies" (three key points), storytelling techniques, catchy news headlines, and memorable quotes.
    • Utilize rhetorical devices like metaphors, similes, and analogies to make complex concepts relatable.
    • Leverage rhetorical devices like metaphors, similes, and analogies to make complex concepts more accessible and relatable.
    • Use these hooks to make your key arguments memorable, emotionally resonant, and easy to retell.
  2. Becoming the Foreperson:
    • Guide the jury through the law, narrowing their focus to what's essential.
    • Think like a reasonable person: Pose questions rather than offering direct answers.
    • Use inclusive language: "We" and "us" foster collaboration with the jury.
    • Pose questions and help jurors find their own answers; people are more receptive to their own conclusions.
    • Never say "my client"; use the defendant's name.
    • Arm your allies: Preempt opposing arguments, supporting your side.
    • Function as a guide, helping jurors navigate the legal landscape while keeping their focus on your side's perspective.
    • Encourage jurors to think for themselves by posing questions instead of merely providing answers.
    • Utilize inclusive language such as "we" and "us" to foster a sense of collaboration with the jury.
    • Help jurors arrive at their own conclusions by framing questions that lead to your desired outcomes.
    • Avoid phrases like "my client"; instead, use the defendant's name for a more personal connection.
    • Proactively address and refute opposing arguments to secure your case's strength.
  3. Rebuttal:
    • Defense should prepare its own rebuttal section, taking notes on opposing arguments during the prosecution's presentation.
    • Rebut on your terms, asserting your case theory throughout.
    • "Setting fires": Pose unanswerable questions and challenge the other side to respond.
    • Be prepared to counteract emotional appeals made by the opposing side.
    • Prepare the defense's rebuttal in advance by taking notes during the prosecution's presentation.
    • Rebut on your own terms, continuously reinforcing your case theory.
    • Employ the strategy of "setting fires" by posing unanswerable questions and challenging the opposition to respond.
    • Be ready to counter emotional appeals made by the opposing side, deftly maintaining your position.
  4. The Law:
    • Use the optimal amount of legal arguments. Keep it simple and focus on contested facts, not uncontested ones.
    • Identify relevant portions of jury instructions.
    • Simplify legal concepts, breaking them down into easily digestible components for the jury's understanding.
    • Use legal arguments judiciously, focusing on contested facts rather than uncontested ones.
    • Identify the relevant portions of jury instructions and integrate them into your narrative.
    • Simplify complex legal concepts, breaking them down into easily digestible components for the jury's understanding.
  5. Objections:
    • Object if the other side engages in burden shifting, misstating the law, or misstating evidence.
    • After objecting, request a limiting instruction or a mistrial for the record.
    • Be aware of the fine balance between objecting to protect your case and avoiding negative reactions from the jury.
    • Object when necessary, especially if the opposing side engages in burden-shifting, misstates the law, or misrepresents evidence.
    • After objecting, request a limiting instruction or, in severe cases, a mistrial, to preserve your case on the record.
    • Exercise discretion when objecting to avoid potential negative reactions from the jury.


  1. Creating a Hook:
    • Identify the predominant emotional element of your story, ensuring it aligns with your case theory.
    • Develop storytelling techniques, headlines, quotes, and trilogies to create hooks that capture the jury's attention from the outset.
    • Ensure that your opening is emotionally engaging, encouraging jurors to invest in your narrative.
  2. Creating Chapters:
    • Organize your arguments into distinct sections, including factual, legal, damage, and rebuttal arguments.
    • Maintain strong headlines, seamless transitions, and repeated emphasis on core points.
    • Employ thematic headings to guide the jury through your presentation and maintain their engagement.
  3. Legal Arguments:
    • Keep legal arguments straightforward and separate them from factual arguments.
    • Offer clear transitions into the legal arguments, continually emphasizing key points.
    • Leverage the law to support the emotional and logical components of your case.
  4. Rebuttal Arguments:
    • Dedicate a separate section for rebuttal arguments.
    • Prepare responses to anticipated opposing arguments and exploit inconsistencies in the opposing side's case.
    • Reiterate the strength of your own arguments and their alignment with the case theory.
  5. Final Organization:
    • Initiate your closing argument with your most compelling point and progressively build your case.
    • Conclude with a powerful, emotional closing statement that reinforces your core message, leaving a lasting impression on the jury.
By adopting these comprehensive strategies, you can craft and execute persuasive closing arguments that engage jurors' emotions, employ storytelling techniques, address opposing arguments effectively, and maintain a confident and authentic presence in the courtroom.