How Courts Work

Steps in a Trial

Closing Arguments

The lawyers’ closing arguments or summations discuss the evidence and properly drawn inferences. The lawyers cannot talk about issues outside the case or about evidence that was not presented.

The judge usually indicates to the lawyers before closing arguments begin which instructions he or she intends to give the jury. In their closing arguments the lawyers can comment on the jury instructions and relate them to the evidence.

The lawyer for the plaintiff or government usually goes first. The lawyer sums up and comments on the evidence in the most favorable light for his or her side, showing how it proved what he or she had to prove to prevail in the case.

After that side has made its case, the defense then presents its closing arguments. The defense lawyer usually answers statements made in the plaintiff's or government’s argument, points out defects in their case and sums up the facts favorable to his/her client.

Because the plaintiff or government has the burden of proof, the lawyer for that side is then entitled to make a concluding argument, sometimes called a rebuttal . This is a chance to respond to the defendant’s points and make one final appeal to the jury.

Occasionally the defense may choose not to make a closing statement. If so, the plaintiff or government loses the right to make a second argument.

>>Diagram of How a Case Moves Through the Courts
>>Civil and Criminal Cases
>>Settling Cases
>>Pre-trial Procedures in Civil Cases
>>Jurisdiction and Venue
>>Pleadings
>>Motions
>>Discovery
>>Pre-Trial Conferences
>>Pre-trial Procedures in Criminal Cases
>>Bringing the Charge
>>Arrest Procedures
>>Pre-Trial Court Appearances in Criminal Cases
>>Bail
>>Plea Bargaining
>>Civil and Criminal Trials
>>Officers of the Court
>>The Jury Pool
>>Selecting the Jury
>>Opening Statements
>>Evidence
>>Direct Examination
>>Cross-examination
>>Motion for Directed Verdict/Dismissal
>>Presentation of Evidence by the Defense
>>Rebuttal
>>Final Motions
>>Closing Arguments
>>Instructions to the Jury
>>Mistrials
>>Jury Deliberations
>>Verdict
>>Motions after Verdict
>>Judgment
>>Sentencing
>>Appeals


How Courts Work Home | Courts and Legal Procedure | *Steps in a Trial*
The Human Side of Being a Judge | Mediation

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