Thursday, July 2, 2009

Prosecutor's comments result in conviction reversal and sanctions

The Legal Profession Blog is reporting today on yet another case of prosecutorial misconduct - improper arguments during the closing in a murder trial.

The prosecution's case was essentially based on the credibility of two witnesses which the defendan't lawyer vigorously attacked during closing arguments. In response, the prosecutor made statements that improperly vouched for the credibility of these two witnesses. As described in the opinion, "In one instance, the respondent told the jury that he did not offer one of the witnesses any deal until after he personally verified the witness’s account by following the route to the crime scene that the witness had described. The respondent improperly vouched for the second witness by telling the jury that the witness had turned his life around after serving time in a federal prison." This conduct violated Mass. R. Prof. C. 3.4(e), 3.8(h) and (i) and 8.4(d).

In addition, the prosecutor's closing argument also crossed the line when he suggested to the jury that they should avenge the victims in violation of Mass. R. Prof. C. 8.4(d).

The murder conviction of one of the defendant was overturned by the Supreme Judicial Court and the court ordered a new trial due to the prosecutor's improper closing argument. (Commonwealth v. Williams, 450 Mass 894 (2008)).

Full story available here.

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