Murder Most Foul in Weeder’s Clump

Given below is defense attorney Joris Prudence’s closing argument in the case of Illinois versus Charles “Chub” Belcher. See how many logical fallacies you can find in his speech. Answers next week.

Members of the jury, I know that you are intelligent people who will not fall for the clever tricks that my learned colleague, Mr. Lawless, the district attorney, has used in this trial. He has not spoken one word of truth in the entire proceedings. He has stumbled around like some blind Samson in the temple, trying to find the right pillar to bring destruction down upon my client. From the outset, he has been determined to crucify Mr. Belcher, leaving him broken and bleeding in misery, shame, and ignominy.

Mr. Charles Belcher sits here before you, a man whose hair has turned gray with honor in the service to his country, his community, and his church. Yet this honorable man has been dragged into this courtroom to be charged with the murder of his wife. Unfortunate circumstances have conspired to bring him here. This could happen to anyone. As Bill Clinton once said, “There but for the grace of God go I.” 

Mr. Belcher has consistently told authorities that his wife was shot by a one-armed, red-bearded intruder who was probably high on PCP or meth. Neighbors reported seeing strangers in the area and a suspicious car parked in front of the Belcher home on the day of the murder. The authorities have not proved Mr. Belcher wrong; therefore we should believe his account of the crime. This trial is a waste of time, and the real killer is roaming the streets looking for other victims to kill. Our community is not safe as long as this killer is loose in our midst.

Mr. Lawless has claimed that Mr. Belcher shot his wife six times and that his finger prints are on the gun. Of course Mr. Belcher’s prints are on the gun. It is his gun; therefore his prints should be on the gun. That’s just common sense, but it does not mean that he killed his wife. The famous critic and film maker Michael Moore says that citizens in a democracy should have a healthy skepticism. We need to exercise that skepticism in this situation. 

Mr. Belcher did not murder his wife. On the contrary, he loved her so much that he had just taken out a substantial insurance policy on her life. That act of love shows us how much he valued his wife. Are we to believe that he would kill her if she meant that much to him? Again, common sense should enable us to resolve this matter. We don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do so.

The honorable Mr. Lawless has produced an eye witness, a neighbor named Ms. Win Peeper, who places Mr. Belcher at the scene of the crime when Mrs. Belcher was killed. That would indeed be convincing proof if we could believe her. But Ms. Peeper has been divorced four times. Is her word any good? Can we believe a woman who has been divorced four times? I think not. Your choice is clear. Either you believe Ms. Peeper, who has proven to be unreliable, or Mr. Belcher who has kept his word and remained faithful to one wife. 

Furthermore, everyone in the neighborhood knows that for years Ms. Peeper has had the hots for Mr. Belcher, but he has rejected her lascivious advances, a convincing reason to dismiss Ms. Peeper as a spurned woman who is not on friendly terms with the truth. 

It pains me to say this, but my learned colleague, Mr. Lawless, has little credibility either. He was not born and raised in this community. Instead, he grew up in California and was once connected with the Heaven’s Gate people and God knows what other cuckoos. He is as out of place here as Miley Cyrus at a convention of nuns.

Is Mr. Lawless qualified to conduct this trial? I checked on his academic record and discovered that he graduated in the bottom 25 percent of his class at law school. That’s right, the bottom 25 percent. Would you want a surgeon in the bottom 25 percent of his class to do heart surgery on you? That’s like asking the wolfman to operate on a full moon.  

Furthermore, Mr. Lawless is dangerous. He is ruthless in his ambition and will do anything to advance his political career. He wants to be governor of Illinois. He has been as heartless as Simon Legree in his determination to convict Mr. Belcher. And to think that this trial has taken place during the Easter season. 

In the words of that great American philosopher Clint Eastwood, “We all owe God one death.” That is a succinct way of saying that we are all mortal and one day will die. As Aphra Behn says in “The Lucky Chance,” “Here today, gone tomorrow.” That is a sad truth of life. Mrs. Belcher is dead. Nothing we can do here can bring her back. Therefore, let us concern ourselves with the living. Millions of children are starving in our world today. We see their sad faces on TV every day, and our hearts are moved to compassion by their suffering. We ask ourselves, what can we do to help? Our time would be much better spent trying to relieve suffering and starvation in the world.

Finally, I ask you to give careful consideration to this matter. A man’s life is at stake here. I ask you to ignore all the emotional arguments of my opponent and use common sense in reaching a verdict. If you apply reason and logic to this case, you will find my client innocent. Thank you for your attention, and may God and a sense of justice guide you in your deliberations.