In this episode of Jury Duty, we are coming to the end of the trial and each party makes its closing argument to the jury about the case. There are two themes that stick out in the episode, the first is how a defendant is able to represent themselves to the judge, jury, and opposing counsel in a civil case, and the second is the importance of the effect that the closing argument can have on the jury. Both themes are things that occur in the real-life courtroom and can have an effect on the outcome of the trial.
The theme of representing yourself in court (pro-se) is on display in the very beginning of the episode. Representing yourself in court is something that is a right that everyone has in any kind of legal case, but since you are acting as your own attorney you are expected to know and follow the rules of the court just as a licensed attorney would. The defendant clearly does not know the rules that apply to his case and that is exhibited throughout the episode.
The defendant begins the representation of himself by attempting to introduce some photographs into evidence but opposing counsel swiftly object to the introduction of additional evidence that had not been previously disclosed during discovery to the plaintiff in the case. This is a good example of a pro-se defendant not knowing the rules associated with the trial and being held to the same standard as an attorney would. The next example occurs during the presentation of the defendant’s closing argument. The defendant starts his opening statement by telling the jury that he “is not guilty of this crime.” The plaintiff’s counsel objects to the use of the terms guilty and crime because it is a civil case rather than a criminal case. The judge sustains the objection, he explains to the defendant that there is no guilty or not guilty in civil proceedings but rather there is liable or not liable.
The defendant proceeds to begin his closing statement and continues to use the word crime, and the plaintiff’s counsel objects again. After the judge corrects the defendant, he proceeds through his closing statement. This is another example of the pro-se party being held to the same standard as an attorney. While the judge did sustain the objections of the plaintiff’s counsel, he did offer some leeway to the defendant by guiding him with his word choice. It is in the discretion of the judge to how much leeway is given to a pro-se party, and this is an example of a judge following the proper procedure when dealing with a pro-se party.
The second theme of the episode is presented throughout the end of the episode. Both the plaintiff and defendant make their closing arguments. The normal order in which closing arguments are made is that the plaintiff goes first, then the defendant goes second, and finally the plaintiff is given an opportunity to rebut the defendant’s argument. In this case, the defendant presents his closing statement first and the plaintiff goes second with no rebuttal. While that is not the norm, it is something that happens in some instances. The defendant fumbles through the beginning of his closing argument because he is not familiar with the procedure of the court. Similar to his attempt to introduce new evidence in the trial, the defendant attempts to make an argument surrounding the inhalation of chemicals. Unfortunately for the defendant, you are not allowed to introduce any new evidence or facts that had not been introduced to the court prior to closing arguments. The defendant does this twice and his attempts are objected to by the plaintiff and granted by the judge.
After the start of his closing statement, the defendant makes the point that it is the plaintiff’s burden of proof to prove him liable and he claims that they have not proven his liability because he did not do anything to cause the alleged incident. To wrap up his argument, he reveals to the court that this whole experience has incentivized him to grow up and become a better person. On the other hand, the plaintiff consults with her attorney, and they have the plaintiff give a statement. The plaintiff tries to make herself look empathetic to the defendant by telling the jury that she understands that he has had a hard life and she can feel that because she also had a hard life. She goes on to say that she was made fun of as a little kid because she grew up in a rich household and then she was continued to be made fun of as she got older because she was tall and thin. She continues to talk about her parents’ money and that does not go over well with the jury.
After each side gives their statements, the jury is in the interview room, and it is very clear that they thought the defendant presented himself in a positive manner and the plaintiff did not. While we haven’t heard how the jury is going to decide the case, it is very clear that most of the jury has a positive opinion of the defendant after his closing argument and a negative opinion of the plaintiff. This is a stark change from the beginning of the trial when the jury had a negative opinion of the defendant and a positive opinion of the plaintiff.