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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Yes, Virginia, Sometimes People Really Do Say These Things in Court . . .

Some things, you just can't make up. Yesterday morning, one of my colleagues walked into my office and told me I needed to look up an article in the Chicago Tribune (here is the link to the article). The article discusses a racially-tinged closing argument from a murder trial that occurred here in Southern Illinois last year. It just so happens that the trial took place in Williamson County, where I live, and where I have been summoned for jury duty the week of July 9.

I imagine that your reaction to the article is similar to mine. The article speaks for itself and demonstrates that even in this day and age, people sometimes say reprehensible things in the courtroom. The article is an excellent resource to assist in teaching the law and art of closing argument--and in particular, what not to say. I am intrigued to see what the appellate court does with this one.

Friends of Judge Dave Erickson will want to read the entire article. At the request of the Tribune, Judge Erickson read the closing argument and provided legal commentary.  In his inimitable style, and unlike the other legal commentators quoted in the article, Judge Erickson manages to pierce through the thicket of low-hanging fruit (the statement was bad, shouldn't have been made and possibly wouldn't have been made in a more progressive area of the country, the defense attorney should have objected, etc.) and examines whether the offending statement constituted reversible error.

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