Imagine a lawyer saying the following in closing argument in a civil trial:
“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my mother is here today. She’s right there, sitting in back of the courtroom… [To his mother:] “Hi, Mom.”] [stage direction: old lady waves to beloved son]…My mom taught me something. Something very important. She taught me never to lie. I take that lesson very seriously and I do not lie…”
Is that proper in a closing argument? Is this treacle grounds for a mistrial? If you were opposing counsel would you object? Move for a mistrial? Ask for a “curative jury instruction”?
If you were a juror, would you conclude that the lawyer does not lie because of this manipulative, almost childish, ploy? Would you conclude just the opposite (“this guy must think we’re complete idiots and is a condescending clown”)? Would it affect your decision-making at all?
We heard of the use of this tactic in a recent Minnesota civil trial through the grapevine.
One lawyer in the conversation was adamant that this would be grounds for a mistrial, as a form of impermissible “vouching.”