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CLOSING ARGUMENTS - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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CLOSING ARGUMENTS

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

LIMITS ON CLOSING ARGUMENTS

The trial court is allowed to limit closing arguments to a reasonable time, eliminate redundancies, and ensure that the argument is germane to the case:

Finally defendant objects to the trial court’s handling of closing arguments. He challenges the three hour time limit placed on each side. However the limitation of time for arguments of counsel is within the sound discretion of the trial judge.[1] Second the defendant claims he and his advisory counsel were improperly castigated and threatened by the court during the state’s final argument. When defendant began interrupting the prosecution’s argument with objections the judge overruled them and instructed the defendant to make legal objections. It is undoubtedly within the province of the trial judge to admonish and rebuke counsel when guilty of misconduct. . . . [2] Defendant’s behavior was disorderly, disruptive and disrespectful.[3] The court was well within the bounds of the constitution in handling the defendant as it did.[4]

Jury nullification argument is improper.[5]

Both defense counsel and prosecutor have ethical duty to avoid improper closing argument.[6]


  1. State v. Bednar, 728 F.2d 1043, 1049 (8th Cir. 1994) (limitation of 20 minutes not abuse of discretion).
  2. Hanson v. St. Paul City Railway Company, 43 N.W.2d 260 (Minn. 1950).
  3. Allen, 90 S.Ct. at 1060.
  4. State v. Richards, 495 N.W.2d 187 (Minn. 1992).
  5. See State v. Wangberg, 136 N.W.2d 853 (Minn. 1965); State v. Perkins, 353 N.W.2d 557 (Minn. 1984) (no jury instruction on jury nullification).
  6. See State v. Kirvelay, 248 N.W.2d 310 (Minn. 1976); See State v. White, 203 N.W.2d 852 (Minn. 1973).