I have not studied civil procedure in detail.

What are the rules concerning presentation of charts and data during final arguments before a jury? Is the rule simply that any such charts must be introduced into evidence before the trial, or can explanatory charts be used in final arguments without having submitted them beforehand?


The kind of chart you are talking about is called a "demonstrative exhibit". The rule governing the use of demonstrative exhibits in states that follow the numbering scheme of the federal rules of evidence (which most states do) is Rule 1006 (Summaries) which states:

The contents of voluminous writings, recordings, or photographs which cannot conveniently be examined in court may be presented in the form of a chart, summary, or calculation. The originals or duplicates, shall be made available for examination or copying, or both, by other parties at reasonable time and place. The court may order that they be produced in court.

Basically, this means that demonstrative exhibits are fine as long as they are supported by the evidence offered at trial, or are admitted in circumstances when the opposing party has an opportunity to review at trial their factual basis. A demonstrative exhibit for use in closing doesn't necessarily have to be introduced into evidence at trial, although it often would be used first in opening, then during trial and again in closing, as a matter of good trial litigation practice.

A complication is that many state court rules (and federal courts) require that demonstrative exhibits be disclosed a certain number of days before trial as part of a trial management order designed to prevent undue surprise. This provisions are sometimes contained in Rules 16 or 26 of rules numbered similarly to the federal rules of civil procedure, and are sometimes set forth in a court specific case management order or trial management order tailored to a particular case or a particular judge's preferences. This would vary considerably from court to court, sometimes even within the same state. These disclosure requirements are less common in courts with limited civil jurisdiction, but are sometimes found even in those courts.

Also, while advanced arrangements would ordinarily not need to be made with respect to a chart in terms of court facilities, one would want to make sure that an easel was available to put the chart on as one was talking about it.

Some discussion of the use of visual aids in a closing argument can be found here, although that source is light on the technical steps that must be taken to use them.

If a more sophisticated arrangement (e.g. a power point presentation or a video) is desired, this can generally be permitted as well, but advanced consultation with the court and opposing counsel to arrange the logistics of getting the projector and screen set up, etc. must usually be made usually via the court's division clerk (i.e. the court clerk assigned to the particular courtroom or judge).

The main objection to a demonstrative exhibit is that it is not supported by facts offered at trial (if it was not itself admitted as an exhibit at trial with an offer to disclose the underlying facts), either because the facts were not introduced into evidence, or because it inaccurately states the facts offered at trial. Also, certain kinds of statements (e.g. an attorney stating that a particular witness was lying, rather than listing facts that show that the witness was lying, or referring to evidence that was kept out of the record at trial) are prohibited completely in an closing statement in any format.

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