Sunday, January 5, 2014

In Opening and Closing Statements the Prosecutor Must Stick to the Facts of the Case and Not Attempt to Sway the Jury with Prejudicial Comments.

Prepared as a Public Service by the N.J. Criminal Defense Law Office

In State v. Raiford, a Middlesex County assistant prosecutor became overly zealous and over stepped his boundary when in his opening statement claimed that he spoke for the community and that the defendant was a threat to the community.  Anytime a prosecutor attempts to interject prejudice by claiming that he is more than an attorney for State he is overstepping his boundaries.

In the armed-robbery prosecution the assistant prosecutor attempted to link himself with the people of the community and that the defendant was outside that community.  The appellate division held that such comments by the assistant prosecutor warranted a new trial and vacating Mr. Raiford’s first-degree robbery conviction.  Further, the appellate court held that the trial court erred by not instructing the jury that the comments be stricken from the record and be totally disregarded by them.
In all criminal trials defense counsel should be aware of the subtle inferences that prosecutor’s make in the attempt to make the defendant look guilty. 
Question:  I always wonder why does court always allow the prosecutor’s table to be next to the jury box, and the defense table on the other side of the courtroom.  Isn’t this a subtle inference to the jury that it is we the prosecutor and the jury against the defense counsel and his client?  If they have the burden of proof why do they get to sit next to the jury and we the defense have to sit far away?

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