An important aspect of jury trials are the closing arguments that are presented by attorneys at the conclusion of the trial. This is the part where the attorney must sell their argument to the jury and argue how the evidence presented during trial best comports to their version of events.  This part is perhaps the most exciting part of the trial as it may be a little more Hollywood like as the attorneys can make passionate arguments with a little flair to the jury.  However the courts in North Carolina have laid down some ground rules of topics that attorneys are not allowed to bring up during closing arguments to the jury.  Some of these are:

  • Arguments cannot be based on religion
  • Name calling of the defendant
  • Comparing the defendant to an animal
  • Remarks based on the defendants looks, such as that he should be convicted because he looks like a criminal
  • Any racial references unless it directly relates to the case on hand
  • Reference to national tragic events that may bias the jury against the defendant
  • Personal beliefs or experiences of the attorney presenting the argument to the jury
  • Personal attacks on opposing council or witnesses
  • Attorney cannot ask the jury to put themselves in the victim’s shoes
  • Attorney should not ask jury to make a decision based on community sentiment
  • Cannot argue general deterrence
  • Attorney should not try to appeal to the fear of a juror
  • Attorney should not tell jury of possible outcomes of the case on appeals, parole, etc…

This is not a complete list of all the impermissible arguments allowed in a jury trial, but this list gives some idea of the behaviors that need to be avoided during closing arguments.

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