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cajungirl228

What constitutes prosecutorial misconduct in a criminal trial ?

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Can someone tell me about prosecutorial misconduct during a criminal trial? I believe my cousin didn't get a fair trial and I am trying to get some advice. 

 

During closing arguments the Assistant DA said the following thing to the jury..... "I don't even care that some of the state witnesses lied on the stand during their testimony.  I would have done the same thing if it were me."

I just don't understand how a ADA is allowed to say something like this to the jury and nothing be done about it. Isn't our criminal justice system  structured around the idea that the truth about a case is being presented. If the state nor the court care that perjury is being committed than that in returns totally  undermines the justice system. 

 

There is more to this case but can someone help me out with understanding the complex law of Louisiana regarding this question. I can then ask a few more questions that I have. Thank you 

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Thanks for the reply adjusterjack. 

 

Of course I have done research pertaining to this. I am looking for more than just "general information".  I am hoping to get insight on what actual legal steps can be taken.  

 

The phrase I quoted is far from "out of context". It's actually pretty black and white no matter what way it's looked at.  Bottom line in my opinion, there should NEVER be a time when this sort of "rhetoric" should be allowed during ANY legal proceeding.  

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First credibility is something that the jury exclusively decides.  Second, lying doesn't always equal perjury.  Third, in order to preserve the issue, the defense had to object and ask that the court find misconduct.  The court could/should then rule by instructing the jury to ignore the prosecutor's statement and remind them that they are the finders of fact and nothing the attorneys say is evidence to consider.  Lastly, it's only when the misconduct renders the trial so unfair that an appellate court will treat it as any more than a footnote.  It takes a whole lot more than a single statement during closing argument to get to that threshold. 

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37 minutes ago, cajungirl228 said:

Of course I have done research pertaining to this. I am looking for more than just "general information".  I am hoping to get insight on what actual legal steps can be taken.  

 

For that kind of insight you will need a lawyer to review the transcript of the trial and all the evidence presented so as to determine if there is any cause for seeking to overturn the conviction.

 

37 minutes ago, cajungirl228 said:

The phrase I quoted is far from "out of context". It's actually pretty black and white no matter what way it's looked at.  Bottom line in my opinion, there should NEVER be a time when this sort of "rhetoric" should be allowed during ANY legal proceeding.  

 

Perhaps the Louisiana Supreme Court can convince you that you may be wrong.

 

In 1998 James Michael Casey was sentenced to death for the murder of 12 year old Christina Wolfe. He appealed the conviction and sentence arguing various assignments of error. Two of those errors involved "prosecutorial misconduct" during the prosecutor's closing argument. The following is the court's ruling regarding the prosecutor's closing argument quoted directly from the case decision:


 

Quote

 

Assignments of Error Nos. 8 and 9

 

In his eighth and ninth assignments of error, the defendant argues that the trial court erred by allowing improper closing arguments by the prosecution. First, the defendant argues that the prosecutor made several objectionable remarks referring to serial killers Wayne Williams and Ted Bundy and comparing them with the defendant and the manner of death as alleged by the State. Second, the defendant complains about the prosecutor's comments that, "the state's evidence is better than a 12-year-old coming back from the grave" and "the victim is not here to tell you the elements of rape."

 

The general rule concerning the scope of closing arguments is that they are confined to "evidence admitted, to the lack of evidence, to conclusions of fact that the state or defendant may draw therefrom, and to the law applicable to the case." La.C.Cr. P. art. 774. Louisiana jurisprudence on prosecutorial misconduct allows prosecutors wide latitude in choosing closing argument tactics. See State v. Martin, 539 So.2d 1235, 1240 (La.1989) (holding closing arguments that referred to "smoke screen" tactics and defense as "commie pinkos" inarticulate but not improper); State v. Copeland, 530 So.2d 526, 545 (La.1988) (holding prosecutor's waving gruesome photo at jury and urging members to look at it if they became "weak kneed" during deliberations as not improper). Further, the trial judge has broad discretion in controlling the scope of closing arguments. State v. Prestridge, 399 So.2d 564, 580 (La.1981). And, even if the prosecutor exceeds these bounds, the court will not reverse a conviction unless "thoroughly convinced" that the argument influenced the jury and contributed to the verdict. See State v. Martin, 93-0285, p. 17 (La.10/17/94), 645 So.2d 190, 200; State v. Jarman, 445 So.2d 1184, 1188 (La.1984); State v. Dupre, 408 So.2d 1229, 1234 (La. 1982).

 

Even if we were to assume that the prosecutor's comments in this case were outside the proper scope of closing arguments, the defendant is still not entitled to relief. The court must be thoroughly convinced that the argument influenced the jury and contributed to the verdict before reversing a conviction based on misconduct during the closing arguments. The thrust of the prosecutor's remarks were, in the first instance, to downplay the importance of hair and fiber evidence in this case to counter the defense's position that it was crucial, and, in the second instance, to emphasize the importance of the fingerprint matches on the murder weapon to counter the defense's position that it was accidental. The verdict was unanimous and it was reasonable on the basis of the evidence heard. In fact, "credit should be accorded to the good sense and fair-mindedness of jurors who have heard the evidence." Jarman, 445 So.2d at 1188. In this case, the defendant was convicted based on ample evidence of guilt, including the absence of sperm in the seminal fluid found in the victim's anal, vaginal and nasal passages coupled with the fact of the defendant's successful vasectomy, Cheryl Wolfe's testimony, the roll of packing tape found in the defendant's apartment and the defendant's fingerprints on the murder weapon itself. Thus, the court is not thoroughly convinced that the closing argument, even if improper, influenced the jury and contributed to the verdict such that the defendant warrants a reversal of his conviction.

 

 

https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=12660273680873022206&q=closing+argument&hl=en&as_sdt=4,19

 

There are roughly 2500 other case decisions that involve closing argument.

 

https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=4%2C19&q="closing+argument"&btnG=

 

So, you see, your quote is certainly taken out of context and that kind of "rhetoric" was apparently permitted by the court and also apparently not objected to by your cousin's attorney.

 

Given some of the horrible statements that the Supreme Court did allow, the prosecutor's statement in your cousin's case seems rather tame and was unlikely to have made any difference to the verdict.

 

Would you now reveal what your cousin was convicted of and what evidence was used to convict him?

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19 hours ago, cajungirl228 said:

I just don't understand how a ADA is allowed to say something like this to the jury and nothing be done about it.

 

Did the defense attorney object?

 

If your question is whether the single quoted bit in your original post constitutes prosecutorial misconduct, the answer is that it likely doesn't.  Any sort of discussion about those two quoted sentence, completely out of context, would be utterly pointless.  You are, of course, free to hire a lawyer to review the entire trial record and advise you.

 

 

17 hours ago, cajungirl228 said:

I am looking for more than just "general information".

 

Then the question you asked -- "Can someone tell me about prosecutorial misconduct during a criminal trial?" -- was not well-thought out.

 

 

17 hours ago, cajungirl228 said:

I am hoping to get insight on what actual legal steps can be taken.

 

You are free to ask your cousin's lawyer about what happened and whether anything can be done.  Or you can hire an attorney yourself to review the record.  However, you have no standing to take any action in a case in which you weren't a party.

 

 

17 hours ago, cajungirl228 said:

The phrase I quoted is far from "out of context"

 

Of course it is.  You provided zero other information about the case.  That's what "out of context" means.

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