As the final chance to speak before a jury deliberates, closing rebuttal is one of the most crucial pieces of a plaintiff’s case, and it can be the most effective point to request damages. In a 2017 trial over the shooting of two club patrons, Mecca Anderson’s searing rebuttal on close helped bring home a $3.5 million verdict. Canaday v. Jay’s Place Sports Bar & Lounge, Inc., 13-A47164-3, Johnson v. Jay’s Place Sports Bar & Lounge, Inc., 13-A-47165-3.
Syria Canaday and Temika Johnson were injured during a September 2012 late-night shooting at Jay’s Place, an Atlanta-area club and sports bar. Canaday and Johnson claimed the club was responsible because it failed to provide adequate security or follow safety protocol after breaking up a fight minutes before the shooting occurred.
In her closing rebuttal, Anderson, of The Cochran Firm, hammered the defense for arguing the limits of the club’s responsibilities and raising other “red herrings” she maintained were designed to distract the jury from the trial's key questions. “This is not a dispute between the parties on the lease. What is the purpose of whether they had to keep the sidewalks clean or not? That’s not relevant,” Anderson said. “Stay focused on what the case is truly about. The lease is not the law.”
Instead, Anderson said security was a central question on which jurors should concentrate. “[The defense] said they didn’t have to have security. Oh, yes they did,” Anderson said. “Security is not optional when you attract a dangerous condition.”
Anderson's rebuttal was both powerful and conversational, empathizing with the jury while driving home her argument. At one point, she shared in the exasperation she imagined jurors felt over questioning designed to highlight inconsistent testimony. "My boys [Peter Brogdon and Omari Crawford, who shared first-chair responsibilities with Anderson] would come up and say [to witnesses] 'Do you remember taking a deposition on this day?' And we'd all roll our eyes," Anderson said. "because if [witnesses] would just answer the question, we wouldn't have to go back and forth through this. So that's what you have to think about when you think about this case and you're thinking about credibility."
Anderson also hammered the defense for breaking what she said was a promise to treat Canaday and Johnson respectfully. It was an argument, Anderson told CVN shortly after the verdict, that she considered from the trial’s first day. “Our opposing counsel said in her opening statement that our clients were true victims and that neither she nor her client would ever paint them or portray them as anything other than true victims,” Anderson said. However, “I suspected that wasn’t going to be the case based on her questioning in depositions. And she was pretty aggressive with them on cross, and pretty disparaging of them in her close. And so that needed to be addressed. I think the jury was upset to see that, and I definitely wanted to address that.”
Beyond counterpunching the defense’s close, the damage request served as a key pillar to Anderson’s rebuttal. “I knew for a fact going into it that I wanted to be the person to ask the jury for the damages because I was the person who talked to them during jury selection, and got to know them,” Anderson said. “And, I think that that mattered. To me it would, anyway, as a juror.”
And the decision paid off, with the $3.5 million award roughly equaling what Anderson requested for the two women.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch extended footage of Mecca Anderson’s rebuttal and dive deeper into her thoughts on the trial, including the success of sharing first-chair responsibilities among three attorneys, in CVN Essentials.
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