Karen Koehler, joined by Artemis Malekpour and Randi McGinn, discuss Koehler's approach to closing arguments that set up a $123 million crash case, product liability verdict.
It can be tempting to simply repeat your case’s key testimony during closing arguments. But in a webinar detailing her approach to closings that set up a $123 million verdict at trial over a deadly 2015 crash, Stritmatter's Karen Koehler said that approach is a mistake.
“You don’t want to regurgitate the same testimony,” Koehler said.
“People use that in closing, they use it to summarize everything the same way and juries hate that.”
In closings that capped a four-month trial over a duck boat crash that killed five and injured dozens more, Koehler used Cher’s hit song “If I could Turn Back Time” as inspiration for her closing theme, which focused on the long list of “if-onlys:” opportunities she said defendants had to avoid the tragic crash.
That closing theme allowed Koehler to highlight key evidence in the case while holding jurors’ attention in a way that a direct recounting of the testimony would not.
“I need to get something that they won’t be able to get out of their minds,” Koehler, who opened the trial by channeling a duck boat captain, said.
Malekpour & Ball Consulting’s Artemis Malekpour said the repetition of “if-only” throughout closings highlighted the sheer number of missed opportunities to avoid the accident.
It also served as a powerful device to highlight the evidence from a new perspective.
“You all get to closings and, especially these folks have been there for four months, and you don’t want to be like ‘You didn’t pay any attention. Let me go through everything again,’” Malekpour said. “But you certainly want to - because it has been four months - [say] here are the important things.”
And Randi McGinn, of McGinn, Montoya, Love & Curry, said that the "if-only” theme can be effective in other cases, such as where an attorney may need to respond to defense attempts to blame a plaintiff.
“It’s a great device to also deflect blame in cases where they’re trying to blame your client.”
The discussion was the second part of a series on the courtroom techniques that Koehler used to win the $123 million product liability verdict. The series is a master class on now to deliver compelling openings and closings that resonate with jurors.
And now both parts are available on demand, fully indexed by subject, as part of CVN Discovery, our ever-expanding library of in-depth interviews and webinars aimed at helping attorneys succeed in and out of the courtroom.
And it's included FREE as part of our unrivaled trial video library.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
Not a subscriber?