The “spoiled meat” closing argument in a drunk driving trial

Last Modified: August 10, 2023

The “spoiled meat” closing argument in a drunk driving trial

A defendant charged with driving under the influence must be given an opportunity to fight the charge in a court trial. During the trial, both the prosecution and the DUI defense lawyer can present witness testimony and other evidence. After all the evidence has been presented, each side can deliver a closing argument to the jury.

During closing argument, a knowledgeable and experienced DUI attorney can use a simple analogy to show the flaws in the prosecution’s case. One example is the “Spoiled Meat” analogy. Here is an example of how the DUI lawyer can use this analogy during closing argument:

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as the court will instruct you, in order for you to return a guilty verdict you must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the State has proven each and every element of the offense against my client, Dan Bridges. The prosecutor will argue that the State has built a strong case. The prosecutor will also argue that you should have no reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt.

He wants you to ignore certain evidence and wants you to rationalize problems that have been shown to exist with the evidence that you have heard. That’s because there is a very real problem with his case and it is a problem that should cause you to reject the entire State’s case. That problem is the testimony of Officer Williams.

Remember, on cross-examination, Officer Williams conceded that he made a mistake in the administration of the breath test. He failed the “checklist test.” He did not follow the checklist that was established by the State and by the manufacturer of the machine when he tested Dan Bridges. That’s a bad piece of evidence for the State, it’s something they can’t escape, and it’s something which requires you to reject the entire State’s case. Officer Williams’ mistake and failure remind me of a story that I would like to share with you.

About ten years ago, my grandfather passed away. My mother and father, as well as my family, would always make sure that on Sundays we would stop by to visit my grandmother and have dinner with her. On one Sunday, we decided that even though my grandmother loved to cook for us all, we would take her out to dinner. She at first protested, but after some gentle prodding on our part, she agreed. We took her to one of the nicest restaurants in the state. Everything appeared to be perfect. The restaurant was beautifully decorated, there was gentle and relaxing music in the background, and the menu looked wonderful. The restaurant appeared to be a special place.

My grandmother ordered one of the specials on the menu, Irish stew. It had chunks of meat, carrots, onions, and potatoes. It had always been one of her favorites.

When our food came, it looked wonderful. As my grandmother took a bite of her meat, however, her face contorted and she had to spit it out. The piece of meat was spoiled and rancid. The waiter came up to us, apologized for the bad piece of meat, stating that he would remove it and bring back the rest of the stew for my grandmother to eat. Obviously, that was not acceptable. That one bad piece of meat spoiled the entire stew. Its mere removal could not cure the foulness of the entire meal. My grandmother looked at the waiter and said, “Even though I only found one bad piece of meat, the entire stew is bad. I will have none of it. Take it away.”

The same is true here, ladies and gentlemen. Like my grandmother, we may have only found one bad piece of meat, that one bad piece of evidence. But the whole stew, the whole of the State’s case, is bad. As the waiter could not reasonably expect my grandmother to pick out that bad piece of meat and eat the rest of the stew, neither should you accept the prosecutor’s invitation to pick out that bad piece of evidence offered by Officer Williams, but accept the rest of Officer Williams’ testimony and the rest of the State’s case. Just as my grandmother said, when the one piece of meat is spoiled, the entire stew is bad. Just as my grandmother rejected the stew, you should reject the State’s case and bring back a not guilty verdict.”

Delivering a compelling closing argument is one way in which a talented DUI trial attorney can help a defendant defeat the criminal charge of drunk driving.

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