CHAPTER 12: OUTLINE OF A TRIAL - Table of Contents
12.1 - Introduction • 12.2 - Pretrial Matters • 12.3 - Jury Selection • 12.4 - Opening Statement • 12.5 - Prosecution Case-in-Chief • 12.6 - Motion For Judgment of Acquittal/Directed Verdict • 12.7 - Defense Case-in-Chief • 12.8 - Rebuttal and Surrebuttal • 12.9 - Witness Examination • 12.10 - Jury Instructions • 12.11 - Closing Argument • 12.12 - Jury Deliberations • 12.13 - Motions For Mistrial • 12.14 - Miscellaneous Issues
12.11 CLOSING ARGUMENT
At the conclusion of all of the evidence, and after the judge has read the instructions to the jury, counsel gives closing arguments. Closing argument should pull together all of those bits of information that were presented during trial and show the jury how they all fit together to support the conclusion sought by counsel.
Closing argument is an exercise in persuasion. It should incorporate the facts developed at trial and the law as given by the court into a persuasive argument. Closing argument is the most wide-open part of a trial. The lawyers are entitled to argue the evidence presented (or, generally, the lack thereof) and any reasonable inferences that flow from the evidence, as well as the law set forth in the court¹s instructions.
There are few limits. Generally speaking, the limits are that the attorneys: (1) cannot misstate the facts; (2) cannot misstate the law; (3) cannot express personal beliefs; (4) should confine themselves to the issues raised by the charge, claim or defense, and (4) cannot mislead the jury. There are other limits, which, as a practical matter, apply only to prosecutors in criminal cases; (1) they cannot comment on the defendant¹s silence, and (2) they cannot appeal to the general need for law enforcement.
The trial judge has discretion to control the closing arguments. For example, a judge may set time limits on closing arguments. When a party object to the closing argument of opposing counsel, the trial court rules on whether the argument is proper, and may instruct the jury to disregard improper argument.
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