Sunday, August 1, 2010

Illinois Court of Appeals reverses conviction because of prosecutor's comments

Just about a month ago, the Illinois Court of Appeals (4th division) issued an opinion in which it took the unusual step of reversing a conviction because of certain comments made by the prosecutor during summation. The case is called People of Illinois v Roderick Smith and it is available here.

In a key passage of the opinion, the court concludes:

In this case, . . . we see no purpose for the prosecutor's remarks other than to draw the jury’s attention to defendant’s decision to exercise his federal and state constitutional right not to testify . . . By overruling defense counsel's objections, the trial court in effect permitted the jury to infer defendant's guilt from his failure to present evidence in his own behalf.

I have in the past criticized the court for giving prosecutors "a pass" on conduct like this (see here). I am glad to see the court took a different approach to the issue this time around.

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