Closing Argument for the Defense, People v. Anderson (aka “The High Beams Killer”) by @pjtlynch


Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, thank you for the chance to talk with you. I know it’s been a long trial, and you’re probably eager to get home. But we have some important work to do first, and a man’s life depends on it. So if you will give me a few minutes of your time, I’ll be brief, and maybe we can all make it home for supper.

The prosecution would like you to believe this is an open-and-shut case of attempted murder. My client, they say, hid in the backseat of Ms. Stewart’s car, with the express intent of stabbing her to death. That he rose up several times to do so, only to be stopped when the driver behind her flashed his high beams. And that upon Ms. Stewart being alarmed and calling 911, my client was discovered by police in the backseat, with a knife in hand.

Now I admit folks, none of this looks good for my client. But remember, the prosecution has to establish his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. And the simple fact of the matter is, their case has failed to meet that burden. In fact, if we look closely, it makes little sense at all.

First, even if my client wanted to stab Ms. Stewart to death—which I assure you he did not—why would he do it while she was driving? On a highway, at high speed, in the dark of night? The only thing such a stabbing would have accomplished, beyond Ms. Stewart’s demise, is a horrific crash in which my client would’ve been left seriously maimed, if not deceased himself. I don’t know about you folks, but I for sure wouldn’t stab someone if it meant I’d end up a crumpled bag of bones on the side of some rural highway. That’s simple logic.

Oh, I know, the prosecution says my client probably planned to stab her and then take control of the car. Folks, that’s just ludicrous. He was in the backseat; how would he stab her, move her body out of the way, climb into the front seat, and take control of the car before it crashed? He wouldn’t. Just like he wouldn’t want to murder someone as lovely as Ms. Stewart.

Next, let’s look at a key component of the prosecution’s case: that my client was stopped by the actions of Mr. Maxwell, the driver who flashed his high beams each time my client sat up in the backseat. First, I in no way want to disparage Mr. Maxwell’s heroic actions. He saw what he thought was a threat, and acted on it. I mean, one has to wonder why if he really thought Ms. Stewart was in danger, he didn’t pull in front of Ms. Stewart to stop her, or call the police himself. But let’s set that aside for now.

What we need to focus on is how weak the prosecution’s story is at this point. They’d have you believe that my client, already hell-bent on murdering Ms. Stewart for some reason (and let’s not forget, they never established motive), would be stopped simply because some guy kept flashing his high beams? I mean, I could see getting startled the first time it happened and ducking back down out of instinct. But after that? I mean, you’ve already been spotted, if you’re going to stab Ms. Stewart, might as well just get to stabbing, am I right people?

So basically, the prosecution says my client is a guy who had no problem facing sure death or dismemberment in his quest to kill Ms. Stewart, yet was too afraid to do it because someone—who had already caught him—might see it happen. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, does that make any sense?

Or maybe this makes more sense: That, as he’s testified, my client is a passionate but struggling sous chef. That he works 16-hour days, 6 days a week, under the tutelage of a talented but demanding head chef. That on the night in question, exhausted at the end of another grueling work week, he curled up in the backseat of what he thought was his car to take a much-needed nap, cuddling up with his only friend in the world: the carving knife his late father gave him upon graduating from culinary school. And that upon waking, half-dazed, he found himself barreling down a highway, with no idea where he was, repeatedly being blinded each time he tried to sit up and gather his bearings. And before he knew it he was in handcuffs being charged with a heinous crime, his knife friend torn from his hands and callously shoved into some plastic bag.

Well folks, the thing is: it doesn’t matter what I believe. What matters is if the prosecution has proven to you that their version of the events is true beyond any reasonable doubt. And as I think you’ll agree, to say that they have is about as crazy as a self-destructive stabber who’s scared of bright lights.

So head on back to that jury room, folks, put this matter to rest, and let’s all get home early for supper. I know I’m looking forward to it. And so is my client.

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