Closing Arguements: Do you have to behave?

So, I’ve been seeing episodes of Law and Order, Perry Mason, Matlock and Lord knows what else. I’ve even seen a few on the Court Channel. But one thing sticks in my mind…

Do you have to behave? I mean, is there a law saying you have to sum up your arguement? Or can you bring up all those points the judge shot down, call your opponents everything but human, and rant and rail against the system until God calls us all home?* Could you refer to evidence that got thrown out? Could you refer to testimony that got thrown out?

*[sub]or the end-of-times scenario of your choice[/sub}

Yes, you have to behave. Referring to evidence not property in the case can also be grounds for a mistrial. Particularly nasty behavior can also result in sanctions, contempt charges, etc.

I was wondering what kept them in check. Thanks. :slight_smile:

Okay, so the more gross offenses are out. But… I know this wasn’t the original posting, but the answer above does beg this:

Can an attorney close in a way that basically tells the jury NOT to regard the Judge’s instructions? Not in a disrespectful way that would earn a Contempt Citing, but…well, any good attorney KNOWS how the Judge will instruct the jury, based on the case, etc. How far can an attorney go in trying to craft a closing that will basically fly in the face of the instructions yet to come?


IAAL. Regarding telling the jury the effect of their answers, which is theoretically prohibited (at least here in Texas), a good attorney should be able to get the message across without too much problem. Example: “The reason you are hearing so much about Question x from the defense attorney (civil) is that if you answer it ‘no’ like he wants, he doesn’t care about anything else.” Message – A “no” answer on Question “x” means that the Plaintiff loses no matter how you answer anything else; don’t think that you can compromise by answering some other questions favorably to Plaintiff, it isn’t going to matter.

Regarding telling the jury that they can rule in your favor regardless of the law:

“You are the judges of the facts. You alone will make the decision as to [x, y, z]. The judge gives you the law, but in the end you are entrusted to have listened to the evidence and to base that jury on the evidence that you have heard and to answer the questions on the jury charge. And {Mr. Client) and I suggest to you that the answer to Question ‘x’ is ‘y’”

Is that what you were looking for?

You are not permitted to introduce evidence during closing arguments - especially evidence already ruled inadmissible during the trial. If the prosecution does it, the defense may request a either a curative instruciton or a mistrial, and if denied, may have grounds for reversal on appeal. If the defense does it, the prosecution can request a curative instruction, or mistrial and new trial without offending double jeopardy.

The curative instruction is a remedy short of a mistrial, where the judge instructs the jury that they should disregard what the attorney has just said - that attorneies may argue to them how the facts should be interpreted, but not give them new facts, that the attorney is not a witness who has sworn to tell the truth, but an advocate for his client’s position. How strong the instruction is is a matter left to the judge’s discretion.

  • Rick