Hisotrical/Literary Openings and Closings
Opening Statement by Prosecutor Joseph Hartzler in Oklahoma City Bombing Case, April 24, 1997
That morning, two minutes after the water rights proceeding began, a catastrophic explosion ripped the air in downtown Oklahoma City. It instantaneously demolished the entire front of the Murrah Building, brought down tons and tons of concrete and metal, dismembered people inside, and it destroyed, forever, scores and scores and scores of lives, lives of innocent Americans: clerks, secretaries, law enforcement officers, credit union employees, citizens applying for Social Security, and little kids.
All the children I mentioned earlier, all of them died, and more; dozens and dozens of other men, women, children, cousins, loved ones, grandparents, grandchildren, ordinary Americans going about their business. And the only reason they died, the only reason that they are no longer with us, no longer with their loved ones, is that they were in a
building owned by a government that Timothy McVeigh so hated that with premeditated intent and a well-designed plan that he had developed over months and months before the bombing, he chose to take their innocent lives to serve his twisted purpose.
In plain, simple language, it was an act of terror, violence, intend — intended to serve selfish political purpose. The man who committed this act is sitting in this
courtroom behind me, and he’s the one that committed those murders. After he did so, he fled the scene; and he avoided
Each of the crimes has various elements. The Judge at the end of the case will instruct you on those elements. It’s our burden to prove each of the elements for each of the
counts. We will meet that burden. We will make your job easy. We will present ample evidence to convince you beyond any reasonable doubt that Timothy McVeigh is responsible for this terrible crime.
You will hear evidence in this case that McVeigh liked to consider himself a patriot, someone who could start the second American Revolution. The literature that was in his car when he was arrested included some that quoted statements from the founding fathers and other people who played a part in the American Revolution, people like Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams. McVeigh isolated and took these statements out of
context, and he did that to justify his anti-government violence.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the statements of our forefathers can never be televised to justify warfare against innocent children. Our forefathers didn’t fight British women
and children. They fought other soldiers. They fought them face to face, hand to hand. They didn’t plant bombs and run away wearing earplugs.
Thank you, your Honor.
Excerpt from Closing Argument for the Defense in the Trial of Lizzie AJ Jennings, June 15, 1893
Now, Mr. Foreman and gentlemen, I want to say a word about the kinds of evidence. There are two kinds of evidence, direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is the testimony of persons who have seen, heard or felt the thing or things about which they are testifying. They are telling you something, which they have observed or perceived by their senses. For instance, if this was a case of murder by stabbing, and a man should come before you and testify that he saw the prisoner strike the murdered person with a knife, that is direct evidence; that tends directly to connect the prisoner with the crime itself. Circumstantial evidence is entirely different, and I want to say right here, Mr. Foreman and gentlemen-I call your attention to it now, and I do not think that the Commonwealth will question the statement when I make it-that there is not one particle of direct evidence in this case, from beginning to end, against Lizzie Andrew Borden. There is not a spot of blood, there is not a weapon that they have connected with her in any way, shape or fashion. They have not had her hand touch it or her eye see it or her ear hear of it. There is not, I say, a particle of direct testimony in the case connecting her with this crime. It is wholly and absolutely circumstantial.
Now in certain cases circumstantial evidence may be as sure and certain as direct evidence, in some cases more so because the eye and ear deceive as well as circumstances and events; but, Mr. Foreman and gentlemen, there is no class of evidence known that under certain circumstances is so dangerous and misleading as circumstantial evidence. Our books are filled with cases where the accused has evidently been proven by circumstantial evidence to have committed the crime, and subsequent investigations or confessions have shown that he did not.
Circumstantial evidence has often been likened to a chain. These facts, which have to be proven in order to allow you to draw the inference as to her guilt or innocence, have been called links in the chain, and every essential fact, Mr. Foreman and gentlemen, every essential fact in that chain must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt- every one of them. You cannot have it tied together by weak links and strong links. You cannot have certain facts in there, which you believe and tie them to some other facts of which you have a reasonable doubt. You cannot put them together. You must throw aside every fact about which you have any reasonable doubt, and unless with the links, which you have left, you can tie this defendant to the body of Andrew J. Borden and Abby Durfee Borden, you must acquit her. That is the law, and that is the law you have sworn to apply to the evidence.
Opening Statement for the Prosecution in the Susan B. Anthony Women’s Right to Vote case, Mr. Crowley.
May if please the Court and Gentlemen of the Jury:
On the 5th of November, 1872, there was held in this State, as well as in other States of the Union, a general election for different officers, and among those, for candidates to represent several districts of this State in the Congress of the United States. The defendant, Miss Susan B. Anthony, at the time resided in the city of Rochester, in the country of Monroe, Northern District of New York, and upon the 5th day of November, 1872, she voted for a representative in the Congress of the United States, to represent the 20th Congressional District of the State, and also for a representative at large for the State of New York, to represent the State in the Congress of the United States. At that time she was a woman. I suppose there will be no question about that. The question in this case, if there be a question of fact about it at all, will, in my judgment, be rather a question of law than one of fact. I suppose that there will be no question of fact, substantially, in the case when all of the evidence is out, and it will be for you to decide under the charge of his honor, the Judge, whether or not the defendant committed the offense of voting for a representative in Congress upon that occasion. We think, on the part of the Government, that there is no question about it either one way or the other, neither a question of fact, nor a question of law, and that whatever Miss Anthony’s intentions may have been-whether they were good or otherwise-she did not have a right to vote upon that question, and if she did vote without having a lawful right to vote, then there is no question but what she is guilty of violating a law of the United States in that behalf enacted by the Congress of the United States.
We don’t claim in the case, gentlemen, that Miss Anthony is of that class of people who go about “repeating.” We don’t claim that she went from place to place for the purpose of offering her vote. But we do claim that upon the 5th of November, 1872, she voted, and whether she believed that she had a right to vote or not, it being a question of law, that she is within the Statute.
Congress in 1870 passed the following statute:
(Reads 19th Section of the Act of 1870, page 144, 16th statutes at large.)
It is not necessary for me, gentlemen, at this stage of the case, to state all the facts which will be proven on the part of the Government. I shall leave that to be shown by the evidence and by the witnesses, and if any question of law shall arise his Honor will undoubtedly give you instruction as he shall deem proper.
Conceded, that on the 5th day of November, 1872, Miss Susan B. Anthony was a woman.
Opening Statement for the Defense in the Susan B. Anthony Women’s Right to Vote case, Judge Sheldon.
If the Court please, Gentlemen of the Jury:
This is a case of no ordinary magnitude, although many might regard it as one of very little importance. The question whether my client here had done anything to justify her being consigned to a felon’s prison or not, is one that interests her very essentially, and that interests the people also essentially. I claim and shall endeavor to establish before you that when she offered to have her name registered as a voter, and when she offered her vote for Member of Congress, she was as much entitled to vote as any man that voted at that election, according to the Constitution and laws of the Government under which she lives. If I maintain that proportion, as a matter of course she has committed no offence, and is entitled to be discharged at your hands.
But, beyond that, whether she was a legal vote or not, whether she was entitled to vote or not, if she sincerely believed that she had a right to vote, and offered her ballot in good faith, under that belief, whether right or wrong, by the laws of this country she is guilty of no crime. I apprehend that that proposition, when it is discussed, will be maintained with a clearness and force that shall leave no doubt upon the mind of the Court or upon your minds as the gentlemen of the jury. If I maintain that proposition here, then the further question and the only question which, in my judgment, can come before you to be passed upon by you as a question of fact is whether or not she did vote in good faith, believing that she had a right to vote.
The public prosecutor assumes that, however honestly she may have offered her vote, however sincerely she may have believed that she had a right to vote, if she was mistaken in that judgment, her offering her vote and its being received makes a criminal offence- a proposition to me most abhorrent, as I believe it will be equally abhorrent to your judgment.
Before the registration, and before this election, Miss Anthony called upon me for advice upon the question whether, under the 14th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, she had a right vote. I had not examined the question. I told her I would examine it and give her my opinion upon the question of her legal right. She went away and came again after I had made the examination. I advised her that she was as lawful a voter as I am, or as any other man is, and advised her to go and offer her vote. I may have been mistaken in that, and if I was mistaken, I believe she acted in good faith. I believe she acted according to her right as the law and Constitution gave it to her. But whether she did or not, she acted in the most perfect good faith, and if she made a mistake, or if I made one, that is not a reason for committing her to a felon’s cell.
Excerpt from Closing Argument for the Defense in the OJ Simpson Case, Johnny Cochran
People see things that are totally cynical. Maybe that’s their view of the world. Not everybody shares that view. Now, in this case–and this is a homicide case and a very, very, very serious case. And of course, it’s important for us to understand that. It is a sad fact that in American society, a large number of people are murdered each year. Violence unfortunately has become a way of life in America. And so when this sort of tragedy does in fact happen, it becomes the business of the police to step up and step in and to take charge of the matter. A good efficient, competent, non-corrupt police department will carefully set about the business of investigating homicides. They won’t rush to judgment. They won’t be bound by an obsession to win at all costs. They will set about trying to apprehend the killer or killers and trying to protect the innocent from suspicion.
In this case, the victims’ families had an absolute right to demand exactly just that in this case. But it was clear unfortunately that in this case, there was another agenda. From the very first orders issued by the LAPD so-called brass, they were more concerned with their own images, the publicity that might be generated from this case than they were in doing professional police work. That’s why this case has become such a hallmark and that’s why Mr. Simpson is the one on trial. But your verdict in this case will go far beyond the walls of Department 103 because your verdict talks about justice in America and it talks about the police and whether they’re above the law and it looks at the police perhaps as though they haven’t been looked at very recently.
Remember, I told you this is not for the naive, the faint of heart or the timid. So it seems to us that the evidence shows that professional police work took a backseat right at the beginning. Untrained officers trampled–remember, I used the word in opening statement–they traipsed through the evidence.
Because of their bungling, they ignored the obvious clues. They didn’t pick up paper at the scene with prints on it. Because of their vanity, they very soon pretended to solve this crime and we think implicated an innocent man, and they never, they never ever looked for anyone else. We think if they had done their job as we have done, Mr. Simpson would have been eliminated early on.
Atticus Finch's Closing Argument in To Kill a Mocking Bird
To begin with, this case should never have come to trial. The State has not produced one iota of medical evidence that the crime Tom Robinson is charged with ever took place. It has relied instead upon the testimony of two witnesses whose evidence has not only been called into serious question on cross examination, but has been flatly contradicted by the defendant. Now there is circumstantial evidence to indicate that Mayella Ewell was beaten savagely by someone who led, almost exclusively, with his left. And Tom Robinson now sits before you, having taken “The Oath” with the only good hand he possesses – his right.
I have nothing but pity in my heart for the Chief Witness for the State. She is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance. But, my pity does not extend so far as to her putting a man’s life at stake, which she has done in an effort to get rid of her own guilt. Now I say “guilt,” gentlemen, because it was guilt that motivated her. She’s committed no crime. She has merely broken a rigid and time honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with. She must destroy the evidence of her offense. But, what was the evidence of her offense? Tom Robinson, a human being. She must put Tom Robinson away from her. Tom Robinson was to her a daily reminder of what she did.
Now what did she do? She tempted a negro. She was white and she tempted a negro. She did something that in our society is unspeakable: She kissed a black man. Not an old uncle, but a strong, young negro man. No code mattered to her before she broke it, but it came crashing down on her afterwards.
The witnesses for the State, with the exception of the sheriff of Lincoln County, have presented themselves to you gentlemen – to this Court – in the cynical confidence that their testimony would not be doubted; confident that you gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption, the evil assumption, that all negroes lie; all negroes are basically immoral beings; all negro men are not to be trusted around our women, an assumption that one associates with minds of their caliber, and which is in itself, gentlemen, a lie – which I do not need to point out to you.
And so, a quiet, humble, respectable Negro, who has had the unmitigated TEMERITY to feel sorry for a white woman, has had to put his word against two white peoples. The defendant is not guilty. But somebody in this courtroom is.
Now, gentlemen, in this country our courts are the great levelers. In our courts, all men are created equal. I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and of our jury system. That’s no ideal to me. That is a living, working reality!
Now I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence that you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this man to his family.
In the name of God, do your duty. In the name of God, believe Tom.