In Velarde v. Illinois Central R.R., No. 1-02-1859 (1st Dist., November 8, 2004), the defendants took issue with various statements in the plaintiffs' closing argument. For example, the plaintiffs' lawyer argued as follows about a railroad collision leading to brain damage in one of the plaintiffs, Lilia Apulello:
Lil[ia] Apulello will not get her life back. Lil[ia] Apulello will not get her brain back. Her husband will not get his wife back. Her sister won't get her sister back.
The defendants also took issue with other parts of the closing argument. However, defendants' counsel failed to object at trial, a fact that figured into the appellate court's decision to affirm the judgment.
Along the way, the appellate court wrote about closing argument as follows, a quote that I want to bookmark for myself here:
The scope of closing arguments is within the trial judge's sound discretion, and an argument must be prejudicial before a reviewing court will reverse on this basis. Lewis v. Cotton Belt Route-St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co., 217 Ill. App. 3d 94, 110-11, 576 N.E.2d 918, 932 (1991). Further, attorneys are allowed broad latitude in drawing reasonable inferences and conclusions from the evidence (Lewis, 217 Ill. App. 3d at 111, 576 N.E.2d at 932), and an opponent's failure to object to allegedly prejudicial remarks during closing arguments generally waives the issue for review (Simmons v. University of Chicago Hospitals & Clinics, 162 Ill. 2d 1, 13, 642 N.E.2d 107, 113 (1994).
A court of review should "strictly apply the waiver doctrine unless the prejudicial error involves flagrant misconduct or behavior so inflammatory that the jury verdict is a product of biased passion, rather than an impartial consideration of the evidence." Gillespie v. Chrysler Motors Corp., 135 Ill. 2d 363, 375-76, 553 N.E.2d 291, 297 (1990). If arguments were so egregious that they deprived a litigant of a fair trial and substantially impaired the integrity of the judicial process itself, they may be reviewed even though no objection was made. Gillespie, 135 Ill. 2d at 375-77, 553 N.E.2d at 297-98. This standard has been applied in cases involving "blatant mischaracterizations of fact, character assassination, or base appeals to emotion and prejudice." Gillespie, 135 Ill. 2d at 377, 553 N.E.2d at 298. A leading opinion on the standard is Belfield v. Coop, 8 Ill. 2d 293, 134 N.E.2d 249 (1956).
The opinion continues with a discussion of the Belfield case. Those with an interest in what's allowed during a closing argument in Illinois might want to study this case, and those cited within in.