Closing Arguments and a Verdict: The End of a Legal Era
After the Sheppard attorneys concluded their rebuttal on Friday, the Prosecutors immediately began to prepare their closing argument. A critical component of a legal case, the closing argument provides the counselors for both parties with their first and only opportunity to comment on all the evidence presented throughout the trial. The closing argument would allow the attorneys for the State of Ohio to reference specific testimony and draw inferences from these statements, explain the significance of key findings as to the guilt of Sam Sheppard, and integrate all the key information to present an overall understanding of the case.
Mason and his staff worked throughout the weekend sifting through ten weeks'worth of information—thousands of pages of testimony, hundreds of photographs, and dozens of experts' reports—in an effort to identify the most critical observations and findings. From the moment he woke up until the moment he would collapse from physical fatigue late into the night, Mason reviewed all of this information. He and Dever agreed that they would split the responsibility for this critical stage; Bill would present the first part of the closing argument, and Steve would assume responsibility for the final portion. Both Prosecutors worked throughout the night on Sunday, Mason writing a detailed closing that he would rely on to ensure that he addressed critical pieces of testimony and Dever reviewing a series of brief note cards that would help him in his recollections. Bill continued to revise and modify his statement until the moment he was called on to present the closing for the State of Ohio.
On the morning of the closing arguments the courtroom was packed with observers and family members. Judge Suster opened the proceedings by instructing the jury:“We are at the point in the trial when counsel will address you in what we refer to as closing argument. The rules of