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Disregard That Statement

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Vinny: Uh... Everything that guy just said is bullshit... Thank you.
Judge: The jury will kindly disregard the defendant's entire opening statement, with the exception of "Thank you."

A kind of Unconventional Courtroom Tactic 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 self-induce amnesia through sheer willpower. If he's really being smug, he'll withdraw the statement himself before the other lawyer can finish objecting.

Note that this appears much more often in fiction. In real life, it's 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", since you can't un-ring a bell. Because they aren't idiots, they realize people cannot "un-hear" things. Therefore this is not a clever or crafty way to get around rules governing prejudicial questions. Even one overly prejudicial question or statement can easily result in a successful appeal, as it's a safe assumption that it influenced the jury's decision on some level, and anyone who tries to pull it in court is going to find themselves on the business end of a benchslap from a pissed-off judge.

When the opposing counsel attempts to invoke this trope without a proper reason, it's That Was Objectionable.


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    Comic Books 
  • 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. An instance of Artistic License – Law, since the only time the prosecution would be asking the defendant questions would be during cross-examination, where leading questions are allowed. The objection also shouldn't have been sustained since the phrasing isn't a leading question, and even if it had been sustained, lawyers are usually allowed to rephrase a question instead of completely dropping said question.
  • In Asterix in Belgium, a senator is talking about Brassica Oleracea Capitata note , when news comes in from Belgium. Caesar wants to hear what he's got to say, but the senator protests, pointing out that no one can interrupt someone in the senate.
    Caesar: I am not afraid to hear Legate Wolfgangamadeus speak in public! Let him in!
    Senator Monotonus: But the Brassica Oleracea Capitata...
    Caesar: Oh, stuff your Brassica Oleracea Capitata!
    Speaker, to the record keeper: Delete that last culinary expletive of Caesar's. It wouldn't go down too well as a classical quotation.

    Fan Works 
  • Played for Laughs in This Freaking Case, when the defense succeeds in getting all the horrifically incriminating evidence (including a confession and video footage) suppressed on spurious grounds and Jack McCoy retaliates simply by showing it all to the jury anyway.
    Semple: The jury will disregard all of Mr. McCoy's improperly submitted inadmissible evidence which means strike the entire cross.
    Claire: Which means that's the only evidence they'll pay attention to.

  • 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 a hypothetical question, so in movie-land he doesn't get disbarred.)
  • In The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the defendant's lawyer grills a doctor about 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 withdraws her statement, she gives absolutely no outward sign that she's feeling smug, but you can just feel it.
  • The quote "Uh... Everything that guy just said is bullshit... Thank you." from the movie My Cousin Vinny and the judge's instruction to the jury to disregard. (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." Highlighting Vinny's inexperience, he 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 Brigance 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.
    Dana: Objection, your honor, he's badgering the witness!
    Judge: (In a "What can I do?" tone) It's his witness.
  • 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 plaintiff'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?"
    They lost.
  • 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).
  • The courtroom scenes in Bee Movie are full of these. For a rundown, watch this video, but a few notable examples are when Barry accuses the defendant of committing several microaggressions against bees (such as using a bear as a company logo), and on the other side of the isle, the defending lawyer questions Barry's relationship to Vanessa. Neither of these are relevant to Barry's case.

  • In A Time to Kill, Jake asks the mothers of the murder victims how many children they raped, causing the judge to tell the jury to disregard the question. Said murder victims were killed because they raped the defendant's daughter.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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!
      McCoy: (Beat) Yes I am.
    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.
  • 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 Unconventional Courtroom Tactics, 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.
  • In the Porridge episode "Rough Justice" former judge Stephen Rawley keeps saying this in his futile attempt to stop the ad hoc trial of Harris being a Kangaroo Court. No-one pays any attention.
  • Played with by Burt and Virginia in the "Adoption" episode of Raising Hope when, completely unqualified, they defend an innocent man on a charge of stealing a moped.
    Burt: (to the moped owner) Mister Lennox, is it true that you decapitate puppies as a hobby? Withdrawn. Weren't you a member of the Taliban? Withdrawn. A pedophile? Withdrawn. A thief? Withdrawn. Defecated in an avocado field? Withdrawn.

    Video Games 
  • 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. In real life, Franziska’s stunt would most likely result in declaring a mistrial and the need to redo the trial with an uncompromised judge.
  • From the "Courtroom Drama" Cutscene of Saints Row 2
    Judge: I'm curious if you can keep your cavalier attitude when 2000 volts are running through your body.
    Johnny Gat: Oh yeah? And I'm curious if you can keep acting like a douche bag when I shove that gavel up your ass.
    Legal Lee: [cutting in] My client would like that stricken from the record...


    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • Parodied in "Bart the Murderer" when Bart's sentencing for Principal Skinner's murder is interrupted by Skinner himself dramatically bursting into the courtroom to declare Bart's innocence and tell the true story of how he had gone missing. Despite the entire case being instantly and wholly invalidated, the prosecution nevertheless moves to have his testimony stricken from the record:
      Judge: DENIED! Case dismissed!
    • In another episode, Lionel Hutz tries to have the judge's guilty verdict stricken from the record. It works as well as you'd expect.
    • In "Duffless", Homer goes to court following a DUI arrest:
      Judge: Your license is hereby revoked, and you are to attend traffic school and two months of Alch-Anon meetings.
      Homer: Your Honor, I'd like that last remark stricken from the record.
      Judge: No.
  • Parodied in the Futurama episode "Brannigan, Begin Again", in which the jury (a DOOP war-crimes tribunal) are 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 the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Trial" when Batman is being held on trial by a Joker Jury.
    Janet Van Dorn: You could have respected [Alice's] wishes and left her alone.
    Mad Hatter: I'd have killed her first! Oop! I'd like that last statement stricken from the record, please.
    Judge Joker: Record? Is someone supposed to be writing this down?
  • In the Steven Universe episode "The Trial", the Zircon assigned to defend Steven in Homeworld's court tries to use this after she ends her testimony by basically accusing the Diamonds of murder to their faces. A pissed-off Yellow Diamond poofs her instead.
  • The Dick Tracy Show: In "Court Jester", Stooge Viller and Mumbles are on trial for forgery, only Stooge has escaped from the courtroom. He is needed because without him to translate Mumbles' mumbling, the case will be thrown out. He is eventually captured and brought back to the courthouse where Mumbles enters a plea and the judges orders Stooge to tell what he said. Stooge replies "He said we're guilty," then he gets an Oh, Crap! look on his face.


Video Example(s):


The Mad Hatter

Jervis' insane love for his coworker Alice is what drove him damn the path of villainy and madness, turning him into the Mad Hatter.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / LoveMakesYouEvil

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