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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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