Question: What is the “Golden Rule” and are attorneys allowed to use it during their closing arguments?
Answer: The “Golden Rule” is a rule from the Bible that states “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matt. 7:12) which is a great rule, but it is not allowed in closing arguments in either civil or criminal cases. A ‘Golden Rule’ appeal is based upon an attorney asking the jury to put itself in a party’s position, ie in the shoes of a one of the parties based upon the facts and circumstances of the case whether it be a criminal or civil case. This “Golden Rule” argument is universally recognized as improper, since it encourages the jury to depart from neutrality and to decide the case on the basis of personal interest and bias rather than on the evidence. In reviewing these types of statements, the court must determine whether an improper statement actually prejudiced a party to the case. In determining whether the attorney’s remarks were prejudicial, it is not enough that the attorney’s remarks were undesirable or even universally condemned. The relevant question is whether the attorney’s comments so infected the trial with unfairness so as to make the resulting verdict a denial of due process for the other party.