17 December 2019

I Think, Therefore I Mistake

The First Rule of Talking to a Jury:

Thou shalt never, ever, ever say "I think", "I believe", or "I" followed by any verb other "am" and then only once if you a need to introduce yourself.
          Corollary A: Don't use the word "my" either as in "my belief", "my thoughts", etc.

I've had that discussion with any number of times with younger lawyers looking toward their first jury trial. It is amazing how much attorneys want to give their opinion to the jury. It's a strange mistake to make because it doesn't really help much unless you're somebody with a big reputation. Young attorneys trying theft cases don't have that kind of reputation. And, any attorney who has been doing this job long enough for their reputation or position to matter should already have this trained into them.

Of course, anybody who watches nowadays realizes this ain't always the way it works out. I blame this on the fact that juries have been denigrated so much that even senior attorneys haven't tried many juries. So here's the reason for the rule: most importantly to the court, bolstering the argument ain't allowed; most important to the attorney, bolstering is almost always weaker than a straight argument.


"I wouldn't bring this charge of theft if I didn't believe Jane Doe did it."

"Jane Doe's a thief. It's obvious she's guilty. You know this because you've seen the evidence."

Which of these would be your stronger opening? I know the first one is "bolstering", but to be honest with you, when I hear something similar to the first statement I don't hear something that makes me confident. I hear something that says, "I know my case is weak, but please believe me." It's a dumb way to start your argument.

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