Prosecutor misconduct cases

March 6, 2009
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For those current and aspiring prosecuting attorneys out there, read two of today’s Court of Appeals opinions to learn what not to do while at trial. The appellate court dealt with two cases of prosecutorial misconduct but found both were harmless enough not to warrant a reversal of convictions.

The cases are Artillius Washington v. State, out of Tippecanoe County, and Travis Johnson v. State , from St. Joseph County.

In Washington’s case, the Court of Appeals found the deputy prosecuting attorney’s remarks about defense counsel during closing to be clearly unprofessional and unacceptable, including the statement, “I could get just as improper and I get jury verdicts returned all the time on this very evidence. All the time. Guilty.”

The appellate court went on to chastise the attorney, saying upon reflection, the attorney should recognize that behavior has no place in the practice of law. But because Washington didn’t show how those comments had any likely effect on the jury that prejudiced him, he wasn’t denied a fair trial.

In Johnson’s case, the prosecutor committed misconduct by repeatedly referring to Johnson’s right to an attorney. The trial court even interrupted her closing arguments after she said “You need a lawyer when you know you’ve done something wrong.” As a result, the trial court admonished the jury saying the prosecutor’s comments can’t be considered in determining Johnson’s guilt. Because of the evidence of Johnson’s guilt and the admonishment, it was enough to make the error harmless, according to the Court of Appeals.

Any thoughts on these cases or any prosecutorial misconduct or missteps you’ve witnessed?
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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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