What You May Not Say in Closing Argument
- Do not misstate the law. If you lost the argument
at the instruction conference, you lost. Until the judge is reversed
on appeal, the law is exactly what he says it is. Period.
- Do not misstate the evidence. It is unethical
and it is usually ineffective. The jury will remember what the
evidence was, or your opponent will remind them, and they will
hold it against you for trying to hoodwink them.
- Do not argue your personal beliefs. You cannot
do it, not ever. Read Rule 3.4(e) of the Model Rules of Professional
- Do not argue that the verdict will affect the jurors. It
is not permissible to tell them that their phone bills will increase
f they enter a verdict against your client, the phone company.
You may not tell them the defendant will commit other crimes
in the community unless they convict him this time. Likewise,
you may not ask the jurors to put themselves in the shoes of
one of the parties.
- Do not attempt to appeal to racial, ethnic, religious,
or other prejudices. You may not argue, suggest, or
even hint that the jury should consider such things in reaching
- Do not violate any of the judge’s prior rulings. If
the judge struck an answer and ordered the jury to disregard
it, you may not bring up that answer in closing. If the court
rules that you may not argue a particular measure of damages,
do not argue it.
More information about the book The
Litigation Manual: First Supplement