February 08, 2012 Articles

The Golden Rule in Closing Arguments: Is it Still a Rule?

In most jurisdictions, it is still a rule that trial lawyers may not ask jurors to put themselves in the shoes of one of the parties

By Anne-Marie Mitchell and Jay Gulotta

Television dramas exaggerate trials to make them interesting to viewers. However, a walk through any courtroom today leaves one wondering which is the original stage. Trial lawyers increasingly rely on technology and the resulting need to outdo opposing counsel's cinematic effects at trial. Of course, this is not to say that drama in the courtroom is new, but the addition of visual and auditory effects increases the trial lawyer's zeal in a new way. And although most of us remember the Golden Rule that we learned in grade school, one has the impression that, in recent times, the other Golden Rule of closing arguments is observed by trial lawyers less often than in the past and with less severe consequences for its violation. Nonetheless, it is still the rule in most jurisdictions.

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