Criminal Procedures

Trial Process

What is the order of argument with respect to closing arguments?

Often, the prosecutor first makes a closing argument, followed by the defense. Some states allow the trial judge the discretion to determine the order of the final arguments. For example, Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure, Rule 29.1, provides that “closing argument, and the order of such argument, shall be governed by the sound discretion of the trial judge.”

Other jurisdictions allow the prosecutor the choice of whether to argue first or second. Still other jurisdictions—such as Tennessee and Florida—allow the prosecution to argue first followed by the defense, but then give the prosecution a second closing argument to rebut the defense’s final argument. This final argument by the prosecution is called the “rebuttal argument.”

Each side in a criminal case has the opportunity to cross-examine a witness, a procedure guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment (iStock).

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