Vinny: Uh... Everything that guy just said is bullshit...Thank you.
The jury will kindly disregard the defendant's entire opening statement, with the exception of "Thank you."
A kind of Courtroom Antic
where the lawyer asks or says something totally inappropriate to the rules of the courtroom in order to get the jury to think of something a certain way. A classic example is, "Have you stopped beating your wife yet?"
Naturally, the opposing lawyer will object
, and then the Judge will say, without fail; "The members of the jury are instructed to disregard that statement." Original lawyer smirks because apparently only he realizes that people cannot voluntarily induce amnesia. If he's really
being smug, he'll withdraw the statement before the other lawyer can finish objecting.
In the real world, this is a good way to lose the right to practice law; never mind using it as a common tactic. Lawyers refer to this method as "ringing the bell," because you can't un-ring a bell.
When the opposing counsel attempts to invoke this trope
without a proper reason, it's That Was Objectionable
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- In one MAD issue where they examined the legal system, the prosecutor asks the defendant "Did you kill [victim]?" and the defendant replies that he did. The defense attorney immediately objects on the grounds that the prosecution is leading the witness, and the judge has the statement stricken from the record. They get an acquittal.
- Also an instance of Artistic License - Law, since the only time the prosecution would be asking the defendant questions would be on cross-examination, where leading questions are allowed.
- On top of that, the objection shouldn't have been sustained anyway because that's not actually a leading question. Asking, "Did you kill [the victim]?" does not suggest an answer, and therefore the question isn't leading.
- Even more so, even if the objection was sustained, the attorney would have been allowed to simply rephrase the question.
- Lampshaded in Anatomy of a Murder, when Biegler's client directly asks him how the jury can just choose to forget an "inappropriate" question, and Biegler casually admits they can't.
- Chicago: Billy Flynn goes off on a (seemingly) wild rant while cross-examining the Surprise Witness about Roxie's diary, where he flat-out accuses the District Attorney of planting evidence. (Of course, he phrases it as hypothetical question, so in movie-land he doesn't get disbarred.)
- In The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the defendant's lawyer grills a doctor Emily's diagnosis, culminating in the question "So aren't you electively choosing what parts of Emily's experiences fit your epilepsy diagnosis while ignoring those which indicate something else?" The prosecutor immediately jumps in with his objection, where the defense lawyer calmly withdraws her statement. As the lawyer's withdraws her statement, she gives absolutely no outward sign that she's feeling smug, but you can just feel it.
- The above quote from the movie My Cousin Vinny.
- Although (1) Jim Trotter doesn't ask the jury to disregard the statement himself (he merely makes the accurate objection that "the counselor's entire opening statement was argument"), and (2) that's just about the only time in the film Judge Haller is lenient on Vinny. (Well, there is another time that Vinny curses and gets away with it but that's because the judge isn't sure he did it since Vinny was muttering to himself.) As Vinny puts it, the guy is "just aching to throw him in jail."
- As a side note, Vinny didn't have to say anything at that point: Defense attorneys have the choice to withhold their opening statement until their case-in-chief.
- Used by Jake Bergance in A Time to Kill. He asks one of the victims' mother how many times he has kidnapped a young girl, to which the D.A. responds, "OBJECTION YOUR HONOR OBJECTION." The judge tells the jury to disregard it and Jake just continues on, asking how many times he had raped a young girl.
- Al Pacino's opening statement in ...And Justice for All repeatedly brings up the (inadmissible in court) fact that his client passed the polygraph test. It hardly matters, considering that he finishes his statement by revealing that his client is completely guilty.
- Jim Carrey's character in Liar Liar ends up using these tactics against his own witness unintentionally when he realizes the power keeping him from lying apparently also prevents him from helping other people lie.
- Intolerable Cruelty does this brilliantly; a witness gushes an endless stream of incredibly incriminating testimony that could easily get the case thrown out. The other side's attorney responds with "OBJECTION! IRRELEVANT!"
- Also hilariously: "Objection! Strangling the witness!"
- In Snow Falling On Cedars, the prosecution does this, making a very offensive suggestion to the witness and then withdrawing the question before she can respond so as to put the idea in the jury's mind without letting her defend herself. In a mild subversion, though, the judge is not pleased by this, and gives him a very stern warning not to attempt anything like that again.
- Done expansively in The Verdict. The prosecution's star witness gives very damning testimony, which is subsequently stricken. The judge tells the jury in no uncertain terms that they are NOT to consider her testimony. After the trial, the defendant's team lampshades it:
"Do you think the jury believed her?"
"The judge told them to disregard the testimony."
"But did they believe her?"
- Daniel Kaffee pulls this stunt in A Few Good Men. He knows that Lt Jonathan Kendrick ordered the defendants to assault the victim (a practice known as Code Red), but on the stand Kendrick denies it; Kaffee exhaustively questions Kendrick about his draconian punishments for those that disobey him, and then asks the outrageous hypothetical "If you had ordered Dawson to give Santiago a Code Red, is it reasonable to think he would have disobeyed you again?" which is of course thrown out (we don't see the jury's reaction). The judge does eventually find Kaffee in contempt of court when he pulls the same stunt on the higher-ranked Col Nathan Jessep, but luckily for him he's gotten Jessep so angry that Jessep launches into a Motive Rant and confession on the stand anyway (the famous "you can't handle the truth" speech).
Live Action Television
- Used by a rival lawyer in Shark, with incriminating photographs.
- In The Wire, during the trial of Bird Hilton for the murder of a state's witness, Omar Little is asked how he knows Bird. He replies: "Oh, we jailed together down at the cutnote ". The judge immediately comes in with this statement, since the jury is not supposed to know about a defendant's criminal past or lack thereof. Possibly inspired by one of the detectives show creator David Simon shadowed when he wrote Homicide: A Year On The Killing Streets, who wrote his trial notes on the back of the defendant's arrest and priors sheet, thus preventing defense lawyers from trying to introduce them to the trial as new evidence.
- Happens all the time in Law & Order.
- Particularly blatant example in an episode where Jack McCoy is cross-examining an expert witness testifying on the mental disorder of the defendant. He gets her to admit she is not a licensed psychologist but instead hosts a radio show that discusses this disorder among others.
McCoy: So in other words, you're not a psychologist but you play one on the radio?
Defense Attorney: Objection! Prosecution is mocking the witness!
- Strangely enough, since he's discrediting the witness with her own testimony, this is perfectly legal. Except for the mocking part.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer Alan Shore does this about six times an episode in Boston Legal. Although he seems to be very aware of its ridiculousness.
- Frequently also on JAG.
- In Bones, the episode "The Girl in the Fridge" features a trial and how the evidence is perceived. Both Booth and Brennan's old professor, working for the other side, throw in personal commentary and opinions, shaping the jury's opinions, objected to by the lawyers, and the judge uses this statement liberally. But of course, can't change the jury's having heard their bias.
- This gets an extra turn when the prosecution asks Brennan about her past, and when the defense objects the prosecution gets it overruled by pointing out that the defense's witness brought it up. The problem there is that the prosecution successfully objected when he did so, and that testimony would have been struck. Leading to the bizarre situation of them using something they kept out of evidence to put something into evidence...
- Subverted in Harry's Law in that the eponymous character's use of this technique in one episode causes a mistrial and almost gets her disbarred.
- At least once on Matlock, after Matlock's Courtroom Antics, when the judge ordered the jury to disregard his statement. Matlock muttered under his breath, "Like hell they will."
- In Murder One, the prosecutor brings up the defendant's previous visit to a sex shop where he examined sadistic looking wrist restraints, and holds up a pair for the witness to identify. The defense objects that there's no evidence that any restraints were used in the murder, but we're left to surmise that the purpose of this tangent was simply for the jury to see the restraints, and see the defendant as the kind of person who would use them.
- In Community Basic Lupine Urology Annie and Lt. Colonel Archwood do this by making a wildly loaded question then saying "withdrawn", using this to call someone respectively a wife-beating, drug-using virgin, and a Holocaust-denying, 9/11 pedophile. They get away this this because they aren't really in a courtroom, but rather a bizarre faux-trial presided over by the biology teacher to determine who ruined a school project.
- Pulled at least once in The Ace Attorney games, when Franziska von Karma shows off an illegally acquired photograph, not as formal evidence (since that would ruin her Perfect Record, after all), but just to give the judge and audience something to think about. Too bad for her the implications fly completely over the Judge's head.
- Parodied in Futurama, where the jury (a DOOP war-crimes tribunal) were all witnesses (to the destruction of DOOP headquarters). The rival lawyer asks the jury to point out the person they saw committing the act, and are told by the judge to disregard their own statements.
- Hilariously parodied in Batman: The Animated Series, where Batman is being held on trial by a Joker Jury.
Mad Hatter: Your Honor, I would like that last outburst stricken from the record.
Judge Joker: Record? Is someone supposed to be writing this down?