Much like regular trials, mock trials are shutdown and everything is on hold. And unlike math class, where your teacher can do quadratic equations on a whiteboard through Zoom, it is pretty hard to teach (or coach) mock trial in the virtual world. But this doesn’t mean you have to let your mock trial skills get rusty. This is a good time to check out some resources online. So while you are quarantining or sheltering in place, here are 5 of the best closing arguments (real and fictional) that are out there.

1. For The People: This clip is the prosecutor closing. The closing is persuasive and emotionally powerful, but as a mocktrialer you will notice something else that this prosecutor does right. He spells out each element of the offense and explains why he has proved each one and met his burden of proof. He explains that certain elements are uncontroverted, and then gets straight to the point of what is really at issue in his case. And does so with panache.

2. Ally McBeal S2E1: The clip is a defense attorney closing. The episode is Season 2, Episode 1 of a show called Ally McBeal. This clip isn’t on YouTube so you can only watch it on Hulu (unless your mom has the whole series on box set).

John Cage hints at jury nullification.

The attorney John Cage is defending a woman accused of having a relationship with a teenaged boy. Although the attorney uses a sense of humor that wouldn’t be appropriate in court (though it works on a sitcom), the closing argument is nevertheless an exceptional example of a closing that hints at jury nullification, i.e. asking the jurors, in essence, to ignore the law and do what they feel is right.

3. Johnny Cochran Defending OJ Simpson: I was a young prosecutor in 1995 when the OJ Simpson case was going on. The defense lawyer’s phrase “if it (the glove) doesn’t fit, you must acquit” has since become somewhat of a cliche, but the closing is instrumental in instructing mock trial students about the value in catchy phrases to get your fundamental point across. The mistake some mocktrialers make is they use a phrase that echoes “the glove doesn’t fit” in ways that are obvious. You will want to make sure your phrase is original. At the time of the OJ trial, some legal commentators thought of Johnny Cochran’s phrasing as kind of corny, but as a brilliant trial lawyer, he understood his audience wasn’t the legal community – it was a jury of 12 in Los Angeles.

4. To Kill a Mocking Bird: In this classic closing argument, the defense lawyer hits all the important points. He highlights the lack of any physical or medical evidence. This always needs to be done. Also, notice the attorney’s tempo. So often mock trial students just deliver their closings way too fast, like they are in a hurry and just want to sit back down. If you have made a good point, you can pause for a few seconds to let it sink in and give some dramatic effect. The defense lawyer wisely expresses some measure of sympathy for the accuser before leveling criticisms toward her. Lastly, note the posture of the prosecutor while he sits there – don’t sit like that!

5. Devon Robinson Trial: Ok those last three examples are all from back in the day. So let’s turn to a real good recent closing argument. The Devon Robinson case is so recent the defense lawyer actually thanks the jury for their participation during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mock trial students should notice this lawyer’s excellent courtroom style. She speaks clearly and confidently with little to no use of notes. She also does a good job of integrating technology into her closing. She doesn’t stop and start her closing to use the technology, she joins them together. She uses the defendant’s own words against him with persuasive effect.

What did I miss? What closing arguments do you like? Which one out there are inspirational?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!

I have just posted some sample mock trial closing arguments for people to read. They are examples I have written based on various real-life cases I have done as a prosecuting attorney and criminal defense lawyer over the years. The idea is that you can look these over and it might spur some creativity on your part on what you need to do for your mock trial. Here is the link.  One of the cases involved an insanity defense, one case is related to self-defense, and one is based on mistaken identity.  Enjoy!  As always, leave your comments below!
Lawyer holding document and speaking to jury in courtroom

O.k. So you are up on the witness stand, and you are being cross-examined, and you are getting beat up by the lawyer from the other school. Not fun. To make matter’s worse, the lawyer on your team is not objecting! What do you do?  Here are a couple of suggestions. (Note: these are tips for witnesses in MOCK trials, not real trials. If you are prepping for a real trial, back the heck off this page before you get yourself into trouble.)

  1. Don’t let the lawyer interrupt you. When you are answering a questions don’t let the lawyer jump you with another question if you are mid-sentence. Just talk over the lawyer. This will force him to stop, or it will force the judge to stop the both of you.  But either way, you have shown that you are assertive enough not to get interrupted mid-sentence. If the judge looks at you like its your fault, just look innocent and say, “I am sorry your honor” and smile at the attorney.
  2. Critique his question. This sort of thing really throws off lawyers when they are being bullies.  Say something like: “Can you rephrase the question?” “Can you repeat the question?” “I don’t understand the question.” “That questions is pretty vague.” If the question is really over the top, you can ask: “Is that a serious question?”
  3. Ask for a moment. Repeat the question back and say “Let me think about that for a moment. Hmmm. No.” When you are being peppered with questions, sometime you just need a second to collect your thoughts.  Example:
    Q: Was it raining that day?
    A: Was it raining that day? (Question repeated back)
    Q: Uh, yeah.
    A: Let me think about that for a second. Hmmm.  I believe so. Yes, it was raining that day.
    You see what you are doing here? You just took control of the tempo. A lot of what frazzles the witness is sense that things are being rushed and they don’t have time to think. When the lawyer on your team is objecting (even unsuccessfully), she is at least giving you time to think and collect yourself. But as we discussed, sometimes lawyers are asleep at the wheel, and these tips are about how to protect yourself.
  4. Don’t always let yourself be forced to answer “yes” or “no”.  Sometimes, an attorney will ask you a question, and then will say “yes or no”, or will say “just answer yes or no”. Normally, this is fine, just say “yes” or “no”.  But if the lawyer is just using this as a bullying tactic, maybe you don’t go along with it. At best, give the answer as “Yes, I believe so” or “I don’t think so” just to show the lawyer you won’t be pushed around. But if the judge directs you to answer the question in a yes or no format, then you most definitely better do so or risk losing some serious points.
  5. Be assertive in your tone. Sometimes in high school mock trial competitions, I hear witnesses answer in upspeak. Upspeak is when you make a statement but you use the intonation of a question. Like the tone rises at the end. Don’t do this. If the situation calls on you to be emphatic, then be emphatic. If the lawyer asks an accusatory questions, don’t respond “no”, say “absolutely not”, or “of course not” and give him a puzzled look.Keep in mind that these are self-defense tactics. This isn’t an offensive strategy. This is for when the opposing counsel is showboating, being sarcastic (and getting laughter from the spectators). When a lawyer does this to you, these tips will help even the playing field. But again, don’t go overboard. A lawyer that acts mean will lose points. The same is true of a witness.

I have written in the past about specific subjects within a mock trial, such as closing arguments, cross-examination, hearsay rules, etc. Let’s now take a more holistic look at the subject, and discuss how you tie all that into a victory on the day of the mock trial. Here is what you need to know.

  • Team Consistency: Sometime when I watch mock trial teams compete it seems like the students practiced and prepared individually rather than as a team. All the lawyers and witnesses should be pursuing the same goal and the same theme of the case. E.g. is your defense to the assault charge mistaken identity or self-defense? Decide on one, and every question you ask of any witness, and the opening and closing should be focused on this goal.
  • Sportsmanship: No judge wants to give the trophy to a team that comes across as cocky or is nasty to the other side. Lawyers act that way only on T.V. In real life, every trial lawyer know that jurors hate lawyers who are jerks. Good sportsmanship is even more important in mock trial as it is on the playing field. In sports the points decide the game.  In mock trial, the scoring is subjective, and if you come across like a jerk you won’t win.  Guaranteed.
  • Objections: You have already probably figured out that you lose points if you miss out on proper objections, and score points by making a proper objection. Here is what you might not know.  You can score points even if your objection is not sustained.  So even if you make an objection and the judge says “overruled,” that isn’t a bad thing.  You still get credit for showing your knowledge of the evidence rule.  Ruling on an objection is often a close call for a judge.
  • Clothing and Dress: Not everyone has to be dressed like the lawyers on Law and Order. However, everyone should make some effort.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money.  You can go to the thrift store. Guys, it is important to have your mom come with you and to make sure the clothing fits properly.  (Not too baggy).  Sometimes an oxford shirt with a tie will work.  For witnesses, you are allowed to dress for the part: if you are a detective or an expert witness, wear a tie.  But if you are a lay witness you can dress more like what those witnesses would were in their day -to-day lives.  If your witness role is a patrol officer, you can usually order a cheap police costume off of Amazon for about $25.00.
  • Timing. One of the ways students often stumble in a mock trial is to lose track of the time requirements. Practice competing using a clock. Once you start your cross-examination, it is easy to get tunnel vision and lose track of how much time you have used.  It is ok for teammates to whisper or to slip a note to a lawyer who has exceeded his or her time allocation.
  • Have Fun: Your mock trial will go better if you relax a little bit. No, you don’t represent a real client who will go to prison for life if you mess up. So get some sleep, do you best, and be prepared to roll with the punches a little. No matter how hard you prepare, you will always struggle a little bit and be thrown off.  Like Mike Tyson said, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face. No matter how the trial goes, take a breath and use it as a learning experience.

What do you think makes a winning mock trial team?  What have I left out?  What has worked for you?  Leave me a comment below!

How do you handle a hostile witness in a mock trial? How do you have a judge declare a witness “hostile”? Well, you arrived on my blog because you were searching online. And you probably noticed there is not a lot of materials on the subject online or examples on YouTube. The truth is that it is uncommon for a witness to be declared “hostile” in the real world. But the idea does have a sort of dramatic flair, so you often see people declared “hostile witnesses” on T.V. and in the movies. So since mock trial is intended to be fun, and certainly entertaining, I figured I would write a post about the subject.


Hostile Witness

First the basics. You should already know that when you are doing a direct examination (questioning your own witness) you can’t ask leading questions. But when you are cross-examining a witness, you can ask leading questions. The “hostile witness” rule changes this up a bit. A hostile witness is a witness that you call to the stand, that doesn’t want to be there, and is avoiding answering questions, and so when you have him declared a “hostile witness” the judge will allow you to ask him leading questions. Need an example? O.k. Let’s say you are prosecuting a man for bank robbery. After the robbery, the suspect shows up at his brother’s house. You call his brother to the stand. Here is how it goes….

Prosecutor: On that date, you brother arrived at you house that afternoon?

Witness: I guess so.

Prosecutor: And did you notice anything unusual?

Witness: I don’t remember, it has been a while.

Prosecutor: Any article of clothing that you remember?

Witness: What do you mean? He had pants and a shirt.

Prosecutor: Anything else?

Witness: I don’t remember too well, it was last summer.

Prosecutor: Anything to cover his head with?

Witness: Like a hat? Yeah I think I remember something like that.

Prosecutor: What did you tell the police?

Witness: I don’t remember.

Prosecutor: Would it help to look at your statement again to refresh your recollection?

Witness: Maybe. I was kind of out of it when I wrote that statement, I don’t know.


You see the problem. The prosecutor isn’t getting the answer he is looking for. And he can’t ask a leading question because he called the brother to the stand. So here is how it is done….


Prosecutor: Your honor, the State requests permission to treat the witness as hostile. The witness is avoiding answering the questions and is giving different answers then he gave to the police when he was first interviewed.

Defense attorney: We object, your honor.

Judge: Permission to treat the witness as hostile is granted.

Prosecutor: Sir, isn’t it true that when you brother arrived at your apartment that he had a ski mask?

Witness: I guess so.

Prosecutor: Well that is exactly what you told the police when they asked you about this the next day?

Witness: Well, that is correct. I did tell the police that.


In reality, the “hostile witness” idea is not necessarily all or nothing. If a witness is uncooperative, judges tend to give a little more leeway with leading questions. They don’t often formally declare a witness “hostile.” Having coached mock trial for 20 years, I don’t often see this come up too often in the scripts or packets of material that schools use. However, it is always good to be prepared. If you are on the other side, they you should always object to leading questions, and object to the witness being declared hostile. The way you object is by explaining that just because the lawyer isn’t getting the answers he or she wants doesn’t make the witness hostile. Also, you object and argue that opposing counsel hasn’t first tried to refresh the witness’s recollection.





Is this you? You don’t know where to start on your opening statement? Untitled-1That is a common feeling for students having to write a mock trial opening statement or closing argument. Suddenly you wish you paid more attention when your parents were watching Law & Order reruns. Well, there is help for you. On my main website, I have provided information about how to write openings and closing for mock trial. It will help get you started and get you thinking about what you need for your particular mock trial scenario. It should provide guidance particularly on mock trial scenarios that involve criminal cases as opposed to civil. If you have any suggestions of feedback, leave me a comment below. As always, thank you for visiting my blog, and good luck with you mock trial!



Unlike a cross examination which is hard to plan, a direct examination is all about planning. Here are a few suggestions to help your mock trial direct examination go smoothly.

1. Make Sure Your Witness is Prepared
A witness needs to know his or her mock trial witness statement inside and out. When you rehearse, quiz them on all the facts in their witness statement to make sure they know their witness statement. This will help them on cross-examination too.  Also, see our post on tips for witnesses.

2. Don’t Attempt to Script the Direct Examination
While it is proper to prepare a list of questions or make an outline, you don’t want to entirely script the direct examination. A cross examination that is totally scripted will sound artificial, and will lead your witness to be thrown off when there are objections, or if you have to rephrase the question.

3. Prepare for the “Leading Question” Objection
The “leading question” objection is the most important objection to know for a mock trial direct examination.  See our earlier post on leading questions.  Practice rephrasing your questions in a less leading manner.  For example, instead of asking “Did the defendant point a gun at you?”, you can ask “Was there anything in the defendants hand?” and when the witness responds “Yes, a gun”, you can ask them “In what direction did the defendant point the gun.”

4.  Coordinate with the Attorney that is Doing the Closing Argument

It is important that you discuss your direct examination with your classmate that is doing the closing argument.  You need to elicit or establish certain facts that he or she wants to use during their closing argument.

5.  Lay the Foundation for Your Questions

If you have an expert witness, you will need to establish his or her qualifications before they can render an opinion.  Likewise with fact witnesses you may need to explain how they know the information on the subject they wish to testify.

6. Prepare to Respond to Objections

The best way to prepare to respond to objections is to rehearse your mock trial and have a classmate make objections during your direct examination.  There are two types of objections that you will face during your mock trial direct examination.  There may be objections to the form of your question, and even if a question is proper, you may face objections on the response that your witness makes.

7. Study Examples of Direct Examinations

When I was in law school, I didn’t have the internet as a resource to look at other trials.  Today, mock trial competitors have lots of examples online for direct examination.  See here, here and here.

I am not sure what to write about next. I have covered prosecutor’s opening, defense opening, prosecutor closings, defense closing, leading questions, cross exams for lawyers and witnesses, general tips for witnesses, and dealing with forgetful witnesses, and hearsay, etc. I need the readers to give me some feedback in terms of what other questions students have.  Also to make this blog more interactive, I added the social “share” buttons below. So if you find an article or blog post helpful, go ahead and share it. Thanks!  Mock Trial questions answered here!
Steve Graham

As you probably have already learned, the defense attorney delivers his or her closing argument after the prosecutor speaks. In addition, since the prosecutor has the burden of proof, he or she is allowed to speak again after the defense counsel speaks. The mock trial defense lawyer only has one opportunity to speak. Unlike a prosecutor, who is able to plan his or her opening statement, the defense counsel has to be a little more prepared to think on their feet. The mock trial defense lawyer has to be prepared to respond to the points that the prosecutor is making.

The defense attorney should begin by thanking the jurors for their time. In a mock trial competition, it is best to write down 8 or 10 of your strongest points and be prepared to focus on them. You will want to weave in some of the themes from your case depending on the facts of your trial scenario. You should make a point of responding to the prosecutors closing argument. This shows the judge you were listening to the opposition when they were speaking and it shows you can think on your feet. For example, the defense counsel might say: “Now we have just listened to the prosecutor state that the police found fingerprints of my client at the scene of the burglary. However, that is not a very strong point considering that my client had been a guest at the victim’s home on earlier occasions.”  Responding to an occasional point like this is better than just reading a prepared statement, or arguing off a prepared outline alone.

Aside from the above, here are a few arguments you often see defense lawyers bring up:
1. The burden of proof is very high – beyond a reasonable doubt. It is not sufficient to merely suspect that someone did something.
2. The defendant in a court of law has no burden to prove his or her own innocence.
3. The police should have done a more thorough investigation: i.e. talked to more witnesses, looked for DNA evidence, dusted for finger prints in more locations, attempted to locate security cameras.
4. Bias of witnesses – the police, the eye-witnesses, the expert witnesses etc.
5. Describe your client in the best possible light, i.e. argue that he wouldn’t commit the crime as alleged.
6. Remind the mock trial jurors that they must be unanimous to convict your client.

See some samples of closing arguments here.

Any questions?  Leave them below in the comment section!!!

Here is an example of a classic closing argument:

So you are nearing the end of your mock trial, and now it is time for you to do your closing argument. Hopefully you have given this a little thought before it is your turn to get up and speak. Unlike an opening statement, which can be written entirely in advance, the closing argument has to be written as the trial goes along. It has to be adjusted depending on what evidence is admitted by the trial court.  The mock trial closing argument will depend a lot on the particular facts of your case, but I will try to make a few suggestions on how you can sketch out an outline.

You are an Advocate for One Side

Remember that your closing argument is just that, an argument.  You need to convince the jury of the merits of your arguments – not to consider the facts from a neutral point of view. No matter what sort of case the prosecutor is handling, the prosecutor’s position is always the same: there is no reasonable doubt.

Echo Your Opening Statement

Much like an opening statement, you begin by thanking the jurors for their time.  You want to remind the jury of what you said in your opening. For example: “Good afternoon ladies and and gentlemen – thank you for your time and attention to this very important matter here today.  As I [or my colleague] stated this morning, the evidence against so-and-so is really overwhelming, and we would ask you to return a verdict of guilty.”

Cover the Elements of the Crime

Every crime has elements, i.e. the things the prosecutor has to prove to make a case.  For example the elements of residential burglary, are:

1) entering without permission,

2) into a residence,

3) with the intent to commit a crime.

Look at the mock trial materials your teacher or coach gave you and consider what the elements of the crime are in your case.  In other words, what does a prosecutor have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt?

Making Compelling Arguments

After you argue how each point is proven in your mock trial case, then you have to tie it all together in a cohesive way, and present the argument with emotion. If the jury does not see that you believe in your case, then they themselves will not believe in your case. You can use sayings, axioms, famous quotes, reference to literature and popular culture, understatement, hyperbole, mild sarcasm, appropriate humor, rhetorical questions, and appeals to patriotism, common sense, and notions of justice.  So applying those ideas to the crime of residential burglary, you might say: Well the defendant says he didn’t go in the home to commit a crime, just to use the phone. Is he the only person on the planet without a cell phone?  Couldn’t he have just asked to borrow a phone from a passerby? There is a saying that where there is smoke there is fire. Courts are a place where a lot of technical rules apply, but that doesn’t mean that you have to check you common sense at the door. The case is really very simple, he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  His explanation really just amounts to “the cat ate my homework.”  Don’t buy it.  Hold him accountable and find him guilty.  
Now, that is a lot of colorful language all crammed into one paragraph, but the point is to mix in this rhetoric in with your factual arguments?


 Post your questions below in the comment section!!!

See more samples of closing arguments here.


Check out the closing arguments on YouTube.  Or check out:

Post by Steve Graham.

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