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In his closing arguments during the Kyle Rittenhouse case, the prosecution said (full quote) that

“You lose the right to self-defence when you’re the one who brought the gun, when you’re the one creating the danger, when you’re the one provoking other people”.

(bold-italic added).

The bold-italic is plain untrue. I understand that lawyers will stretch the evidence to suit their client's needs, but are they allowed to stretch the law?

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2 Answers 2

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A lawyer is obligated to accurately state the law as stated in the jury instructions in closing argument (and also not to make a clear and deliberate misstatement of the facts presented at trials, and also not to express personal knowledge of the facts based upon anything other than what the jury has seen).

But a certain amount of poetic license is allowed so long as the closing argument is not so misleading, as a whole, that it is likely to lead the jury astray.

In this case, the prosecutor is alluding, with poetic license, to the idea that an aggressor or interloper can't assert self-defense. You can't "look for trouble" and then be shielded by that doctrine. A more full quote from that prosecutor makes that more clear:

you lose the right to self-defence when you’re the one who brought the gun, when you’re the one creating the danger, when you’re the one provoking other people

I have no opinion concerning whether his statement does or does not cross the line. I'm not sufficiently immersed in the case, and don't have enough context from having heard the closing arguments as a whole, to have a confident opinion on that point. If there is an acquittal we'll never know. If there is a conviction and appeal and this is an issue raised on appeal, we might find out.

Opposing counsel has a right to object in closing argument if it goes too far, and appealing an argument that a closing argument is objectionable is challenging unless it is preserved with a timely objection at the time. Particularly if the prosecution makes a misstatement in their initial closing, rebutting it in the defense closing may be more effective than objecting. But, if the prosecutor makes a misstatement in a rebuttal period to which the defense can't offer a corrective statement, an objection may be wise in order to preserve an issue for appeal.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – feetwet
    Nov 16, 2021 at 16:43
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Jurisdiction:

It is not permissible to lie in court in England and Wales. See rule 1.4 of the SRA's Code of Conduct:

You do not mislead or attempt to mislead your clients, the court or others, either by your own acts or omissions or allowing or being complicit in the acts or omissions of others (including your client).

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    The mentioned case is not in england-and-wales.
    – zabop
    Nov 17, 2021 at 17:31
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    @zabop Please see the help page for this site: "Even if you supply a jurisdiction tag, we expect and encourage answers dealing with other jurisdictions – while it might not answer your question directly, your question will be here for others who may be from those jurisdictions."
    – JBentley
    Nov 17, 2021 at 22:18
  • However, the way you've worded your answer it seems that the answer to the OPS specific question (which is US-based) is No, when it's more nuanced than that (in the US). Perhaps if you started with something like "In the UK, however, no, it is not..."
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 18, 2021 at 18:00
  • @CGCampbell I've edited to hopefully make it clearer that my answer is limited to E&W. With that said, are you sure it is more nuanced in the US? I'd be suprised to see a judiciary in a modern democracy where lying in court is permitted. Note that the other answer is based on semantics (i.e. it isn't really lying in that scenario) rather than saying lying is permitted in some cases.
    – JBentley
    Nov 18, 2021 at 19:13

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