Book Review: ‘Kick-Ass Closings’ Gives Trial Lawyers the Tools to Win Cases

Kick-Ass Closings book

Kick-Ass Closings: A Guide to Giving the Best Closing Argument of Your Life

Filled with closing argument gems, compelling quotations, and helpful charts, the new book Kick-Ass Closings: A Guide to Giving the Best Closing Argument of Your Life gives lawyers the firepower to deliver convincing closing arguments with minimal prep time.

Created by best-selling author and criminal defense lawyer Michael S. Waddington, Kick-Ass Closings is 475 pages of successful closing arguments by prominent trial lawyers who actually try cases and win.

Kick-Ass Closings is a guide to giving the best closing argument of your life,” Waddington says. “The book is really designed for criminal defense attorneys, law students, and people who do mock trials. It is packed with snippets of actual closing arguments that I have used, as well as arguments from some of the most high-profile trials in the past 50 years.”

The book is available in a print and Kindle version, exclusively on Amazon.com.

Waddington, a member of The National Trial Lawyers, is a founder of Gonzalez & Waddington, LLC, a defense law firm in Evans, Georgia. He has provided consultation services to CNN Investigative Reports, “60 Minutes,” Katie Couric of Yahoo News, ABC’s “Nightline,” the BBC, German Public Television, CNN, CBS, and the TV series “The Good Wife.”

Key Nuggets

The massive book contains the key nuggets from 310 closing arguments from legendary lawyers and high-profile trials such as Johnnie Cochran representing O.J. Simpson, Jose Baez representing Casey Anthony, and Thomas Mesereau representing Michael Jackson.

It also includes closings from renowned lawyers like Mark Geragos, Eric Romano, Mark O’Mara, Gerry Spence, Timothy Bilecki, Dean Strang, Barry Scheck, Timothy Bilecki, James A.H. Bell, Brian Bieber, Cheney Mason, Robert Casale, Jerome Buting and more.

“It’s not the entire closing argument from the trial, because that would not be helpful to the readers. We picked out the nuggets. For example, in the OJ Simpson case, I looked at Barry Scheck giving OJ’s closing argument, and I picked out specific portions that I thought were very well-delivered and it could help drive a point home,” Waddington says.

Waddington himself tries more than 20 felony cases to a verdict every year, which allowed him to see recurring patterns – ranging from an incompetent investigation, a corrupt police officer or a cynical prosecutor.

“I decided to create a concise manual for lawyers who don’t have the experience and don’t have the ability to go through hundreds of trials,” he says. “Attorneys can go to Kick-Ass Closings to figure out how to explain reasonable doubt, for example. In the book, there are about 25 different ways to explain that to the jury from different lawyers in different cases.”

Criminal defense lawyer and author Michael Waddington.

Criminal defense lawyer and author Michael Waddington.

The greatest closing arguments

The book opens with a 10-step template followed by many of the greatest closing arguments. Attorneys can tailor the template to fit their fact pattern, and add or remove portions that apply.

The closing arguments cover topics like circumstantial evidence, attacking the prosecution, witnesses who lie, cops & investigators, defenses for specific rimes, and shutting down the rebuttal.

One brief example is by Clarence Darrow from The People v. Henry Sweet: “You people are not lawyers. You do not know how hard it was to make them admit the truth. It is harder to pull the truth out of a reluctant witness than to listen to them lie.” Another is Johnnie Cochran in The People v. OJ Simpson: “You can’t trust the message. You can’t trust the messengers.”

“We have a section on types of defenses — everything from self-defense to arguing abandonment. For example, I used an example of Mark O’Mara’s closing where he describes self-defense in the Zimmerman case, which was a very controversial case where he won a full acquittal. But you get the insight into what he argued and what other people argued,” Waddington said.

Pithy Quotes and Charts

Kick-Ass Closings features 20 pages of pithy quotes and parables, ranging from “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,” by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to John Adams who said in 1770, “It is more important that innocence be protected than that the guilty be punished.”

The book includes Waddington’s own favorite quote, “Physical, forensic, and scientific evidence does not lie, people do,” which he used in US v. Montece.

There are several charts that depict difficult concepts in a clearly visible way. One that explains the Levels of Proof as a stairstep beginning with “no evidence” and leading up to “reasonable doubt” – each of which equals a not guilty verdict.

Waddington’s book is an encyclopedia of pungent closings that can be looked up with a detailed table of contents. If you are an attorney who tries a criminal case, whether it’s your first case or your 300th, you can benefit from this book. It should be on every lawyer’s bookshelf.

Watch Michael Waddington in a short video on YouTube: https://goo.gl/Eu3mwq

The Cochran Firm Files Lawsuit Against Daycare Center That Created Viral Video of a Small Child Terrified of a Costumed Easter Bunny

National Trial Lawyers member Scott Leeds with The Cochran Firm announced the filing of a lawsuit in Osceola County Circuit Court against Around the World Learning Center after it reportedly violated a parental privacy agreement by videotaping the terrified reaction of two-year-old Surai Williams during a surprise visit by a costumed Easter Bunny earlier this year. The video was posted on social media and was viewed by millions of people all over the world. It also appeared on television programs such as ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

According to the complaint, when Surai’s mother, Cassandra Bryson, enrolled the child at the Learning Center, she signed a Permission to Photograph form, in which she declined permission for the following:
a) Give photographs possibly containing her child to current clients;
b) Display in facility’s scrapbook or bulletin boards, shown to current and prospective clients;
c) Display still photos on child care website;
d) Post photos on child care’s Facebook page;
e) Give video to current parents; and
f) Display on YouTube® promotional videos.               

“The director of the daycare center also guaranteed that she would provide a safe environment for Surai with adequate supervision,” said Leeds during a media conference. “However, the lawsuit asserts that it didn’t happen in the dramatic video that went viral around the world. We can’t help but emphasize that there are no adults comforting Surai, who is clearly hysterical.”

The lawsuit states the caretaker sent the video to a third party via text message without Bryson’s consent, and subsequently placed on social media where it went viral.

The complaint alleges that the Learning Center’s director, Joan Ryan, was negligent in failing to meet licensing standards that includes giving parents a day plan, failing to consult Bryson regarding the Easter Bunny, failing to take further action against the employee who acted inappropriately.

“As a result of these actions, the lawsuit seeks damages against the daycare center for the severe emotional trauma and mental distress Surai suffered,” said Leeds. “This video continues to be viewed across global social media platforms where some people continue to make derogatory and racist comments.”

The lawsuit demands a judgment against Around the World Learning Center for the full value of the damages and costs sustained by plaintiffs in an amount greater than the Court’s minimal jurisdictional limit of $15,000. 

A PDF of the complaint accompanying this announcement is available at http://resource.globenewswire.com/Resource/Download/9cb524dd-5922-4237-8950-c60ce5e2481c

Study may undermine asbestos-talc connection

A new study questioning the link between talc powder and asbestos may prove to be a weapon that defense attorneys seize upon in lawsuits over the possibility of baby powder causing cancer. The study compares the rates of mesothelioma between urban and rural women. According to Forbes:

The study in the journal Risk Analysis found rural mesothelioma rates actually exceeded urban rates in more than half of the years studied between 1973 and 2012, despite the fact ambient asbestos exposures in urban areas are an order of magnitude higher due to heavy use of asbestos in commercial construction until the 1970s.

You may recall that National Trial Lawyers President Mark Lanier won a $4.3 billion verdict in July against Johnson & Johnson based on the argument that talc powder contains trace amounts of asbestos. You can read more about how the study may be used in defense of future talc lawsuits at Forbes. 

How race affects jury selection

A new study by a North Carolina law school is said to prove racial bias in jury selection. The study, by the Wake Forest School of Law, shows that prosecutors remove about 20 percent of African-Americans from jury pools, compared to 10 percent of whites. Meanwhile, defense attorneys skew the other way, removing 22 percent of white jurors and 10 percent of African-Americans. In The New York Times, Wake Forest law professor Ronald Wright breaks down the study:

When the dust settles at the close of jury selection, defense attorneys’ actions in the last leg of the process do not cancel out the combined skewed actions from prosecutors and judges. The consistent result is African-Americans occupying a much smaller percentage of seats in the jury box than they did in the original jury pool.

Wright also offers two “simple solutions” to the issue. You can read his analysis in The Times. 

How sinus surgery can leave patients thinking they’re suffocating

Surgery to open up sinus airways is a relatively routine procedure. But one woman is bringing attention to a condition caused by her surgeon that left her “nightmarish,” according to HuffPost: Empty Nose Syndrome, or ENS, which writer Barbara Schmidt describes as “a totally avoidable, physician-induced deformity resulting in an as-of-yet incurable and debilitating condition.” Schmidt describes what happened:

During my initial surgery, my turbinates ― what I’ve learned are small but essential organs that sense airflow and signal your brain as to whether you’re breathing ― had been irreversibly damaged. Doctors, including accredited ear, nose and throat surgeons who should have known better but didn’t ― severed vital nerves that were critical to ensuring the proper function of my autonomic nervous system, which governs involuntary functions such as breathing, heartbeat and temperature control. My life, like those of untold numbers of similar victims across the world, would never be the same.

Schmidt writes that although her body was getting enough oxygen, ENS left her brain thinking it wasn’t, causing constant anxiety. Read more about Schmidt’s surgically-caused struggle with ENS at HuffPost. 

Are traffic fatalities getting worse?

law news, legal news, verdict, settlementAccording to the World Health Organization, 1.25 million people are killed in road traffic deaths every year. It’s the #1 cause of death among people aged 15-29. Nearly half of those killed are so-called “vulnerable road users,” such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Why isn’t more being done to bring down this high rate of fatalities? Salon takes a look at the issue in this article. While engineering exists to help bring down the traffic fatality rate, it turns out the real issue behind the problem might be politics.

Video: Family of Alabama shooting victim still haven’t heard from police

The family of E.J. Bradford, Jr., the 21-year-old Alabama man mistakenly shot by police Thanksgiving night at a mall in the suburbs of Birmingham, tell CNN they still haven’t been contacted by police regarding the man’s death. National Black Lawyers member Benjamin Crump is representing the family. The officer involved in the shooting is on administrative leave following an investigation by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Meanwhile, police continue to search for the actual mall shooter. CNN has an interview with Bradford’s family.

Counting hate crimes

hate crimesJust how many hate crimes are being committed in America? The FBI reports 7,175 hate crimes in 2017, a 17 percent increase according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. The SPLC notes that the FBI’s total may be just a fraction of the actual number of hate crimes:

The fact is, the vast majority of hate crimes don’t get counted. The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates there are about 250,000 each year. There are several reasons for the vast discrepancy. First, studies show that only about half of all hate crimes get reported to the police. Second, the FBI relies on some 18,000 local enforcement agencies to forward their data to the federal government. Since the system is voluntary, many don’t do it. And many that do provide the data simply don’t properly identify hate crimes in the first place. In addition, the definition of a hate crime varies from state to state.

Slate notes that despite the increase in the FBI’s hate crime count, the problem of undercounting them could have been solved years ago. Salon reports that the rising number of hate crimes points to a bigger problem: a slow motion civil war, fueled by the alt-right.

The new wave of criminal justice reform

defendant acquitted felony courtroom verdict

A bipartisan criminal justice reform bill backed by President Trump may yet have a difficult time being passed by Congress, according to CNBC. The bill could save the federal government millions of dollars by reducing thousands of prison sentences. The president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, contributed to a column in USA Today backing criminal justice reform. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stands in the bill’s way. Time notes that the bill has strong conservative support, including the backing of billionaire Charles Koch. The New York Times editorial board has also expressed support.

Meanwhile, across the country, a new wave of district attorneys is bringing about criminal justice reform on the local level. The Washington Post profiles district attorneys like Mark Gonzalez of Corpus Christi, Texas, a self-styled “Mexican biker lawyer” who’s one of several progressive prosecutors pushing for reform. The Post also mentions Wesley Bell of Ferguson, Missouri, Larry Krasner of Philadelphia and Kim Foxx of Chicago as some of the district and state attorneys seeking to overhaul the criminal justice system.

Infographic: How attorneys work with expert witnesses

Attorneys are turning more often to expert witnesses to help bolster their cases, and the ways they’re being used are evolving, according to a survey by The Expert Institute. More than 1,000 attorneys were surveyed by the Institute to find out how they used experts in the courtroom, the qualities they sought in expert witnesses, and how they went about finding the right ones for their cases. Which experts are most in demand? According to the survey, medical experts are the most often hired. Read more about how experts are helping win cases at The Expert Institute.