If you have been a trial lawyer for long, you likely have heard of Gerry Spence’s famous final plea in just about every closing argument . From his latest book, Win Your Case, Spence speaks to the jury on behalf of little Polly:
Before I leave you I want to share with you a story I tell in nearly every case. It’s about transferring the responsibility of the case from us, on behalf of little Polly and her parents, to you, the jury.
It’s a story of a wise old man and a smart-aleck boy who wanted to show up the wise old man as a fool.
One day this boy caught a small bird in the forest. The boy had a plan. He brought the bird, cupped between his hands, to the old man. His plan was to say, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?” to which the old man would answer, “You have a bird, my son.” Then the boy would say, “Old man, is the bird alive or is it dead?” If the old man said the bird was dead, the boy would open his hands and the bird would fly freely back to the forest. But if the old man said the bird was alive, then the boy would crush the little bird, and crush it, and crush it until it was dead.
So the smart-aleck boy sauntered up to the old man and said, “Old man, what do I have in my hands?” And the old man said, “You have a bird, my son.” Then the boy said with a malevolent grin, “Old man, is the bird alive or is it dead?”
And the old man, with sad eyes, said, “The bird is in your hands, my son.”
And so, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, “the case of little Polly is in yours.”
Spence tells us: Let go … Let the lion out … Trust the jury … Give them the responsibility … Give them the power.