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Prosecutor error insufficient to reverse murder conviction

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A prosecutor improperly presented facts that were not in evidence and inflamed the passions and prejudices of jurors in a murder trial, but his improper conduct didn’t rise to the level of reversible error, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Alton Neville was convicted after a Marion Superior Court jury trial in December 2011 and sentenced to 55 years in prison on a count of murder and a charge of carrying a handgun without a license.

Neville shot and killed Jamal Hood near the intersection of West 31st and Clifton streets in Indianapolis on March 23, 2011, the jury found. On appeal Neville’s attorney raised several allegations of prosecutorial misconduct, including vouching for a witness, mischaracterizing evidence, arguing inconsistent facts, presenting facts not in evidence and inflaming the passions and prejudices of the jury.

The court in a unanimous opinion ruled that the prosecutor had committed the latter two transgressions and also that evidence was improperly admitted. But none of those missteps rise to the level of fundamental error, Judge Terry Crone wrote in Alton Neville v. State of Indiana, 49A05-1201-CR-9.

The prosecutor suggested that Neville stood over Hood’s body and gloated, a fact the court ruled was not in evidence.

The prosecutor also inflamed jurors’ passions and prejudices during final arguments, the judges ruled. “Based on the lies you’ve heard from him [Neville], but mostly based on the evidence that we presented before you, convict him. Do it for Jamal,” according to court records.
   
“Neville’s defense counsel forcefully countered the prosecutor’s arguments,” Crone wrote. “[T]he prosecutor’s improper comments, either singularly or collectively, were not so detrimental to the opportunities for the ascertainment of truth so as to make a fair trial impossible.”

The panel also found Neville’s sentence was not inappropriate. “Balancing the letters on behalf of Neville against his criminal history, we cannot say that Neville’s character warrants a sentence below the advisory,” the opinion says.

 

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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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