Shortly after her Academy Award win for Best Supporting Actress, a rumor started circulating that Marisa Tomei had won by mistake because presenter Jack Palance had incorrectly read out the wrong name. This is a highly unlikely occurrence--the Academy specifically has two officials stationed offstage to intervene and read out the correct name if such an event should ever transpire. It never has.
The misunderstanding between Vincent Gambini and Judge Haller regarding the two "utes" was in fact a real conversation between Joe Pesci and director Jonathan Lynn. Lynn, who is British, at first had a hard time understanding Pesci's pronounced New Jersey accent. He decided that the routine was quite funny and put it in the film.
Director Jonathan Lynn actually has a law degree and insisted the film's legal proceedings be realistic. In fact, many attorneys and law professors have praised the film for its accurate depiction of trial strategy and courtroom procedure, especially with regards to presenting expert witnesses at trial.
According to director Jonathan Lynn the screech owl in the scene in the woods was a real owl that had a little prior training so it wouldn't be scared away by the gunfire. The crew got it to open its mouth by giving it little pieces of beef, and artificially induced screeches were added to the film in post production. The owl's reaction to Vinny shooting the gun was authentic and needed only one take. The director states on the DVD commentary, "we got amazingly lucky with that screech owl".
When Vinny is trying to explain his "real name" to Judge Haller he knocks over the judge's chess board. This was accidental but director Jonathan Lynn thought it was so funny and authentic he decided to leave it in the film.
The exchange between the prosecutor and automotive expert about the equipment used to analyze the tires was taken almost verbatim from an actual court transcript. The witness, asked how he analyzed the evidence, answered "I have a dual-column gas chromatograph, Hewlett-Packard model 5710a with flame analyzing detectors." The D.A. quipped, "Does that thing come turbo-charged?" and the witness answered, "Only on the floor models." This appears in lots of "funny things said in court" collections.
Austin Pendleton, a real-life stutterer, originally turned down the part of the stuttering John Gibbons. But he did it as a favor to his friend, Jonathan Lynn. According to Pendleton, he had trouble finding work in film for years because he became typecast as a stutterer.
Exteriors were shot in Monticello, Georgia. The scene where Vinny and Mona stop to check the tires in front of Lucy's Secondhand Store served as an establishing shot for the town where the trial takes place and where Mona later gets Vinny's red tux. The courthouse in the background is actually Jasper County Superior Court in Monticello. Wazoo, Alabama is a fictional town. There is, however, a Yazoo City in Mississippi.
The prison scenes were filmed at Lee Arrendale Correctional Institute in Alto, Georgia. Though depicted in the film, the prison has neither a death row or death chamber facility. The prison was also the setting for the movies Unshackled (2000) and Bad Boys (1983)
Near the end of the trial, Sheriff Farley informs the court that "two boys, who fit the defendants' description, were arrested two days ago by Sheriff Tillman in Jasper County, Georgia." Sheriff 'Mack' Tillman was actually the real-life sheriff of Jasper County, at the time, where much of the film was shot, and this line was a hat-tip to him for the assistance he provided to the producers during filming.
When the preliminary hearing is being conducted, a door to the right rear of the witness is open, and a photograph may be seen hanging on the wall. The picture is of William Randolph Hearst, a somewhat odd choice to hang in a courthouse.
In the film, Judge Haller gives Vinny a constant hard time because of Vinny's being from New York. This is ironic, considering that Fred Gwynne, who plays Judge Haller, was a native New Yorker himself.