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Murder conviction stands despite closing argument error

February 8, 2016

A deputy prosecutor’s misstep during closing arguments was not enough to overcome the abundant evidence of guilt and force a new trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.   

Antonio Miles appealed after he was found guilty of murder in the shooting death of the mother of his infant daughter. In part, Miles argued prosecutorial misconduct denied him due process protection and entitled him to a new trial.

The problem occurred as the deputy prosecutor was using a slide presentation to help recap the evidence supporting the conviction. One of the slides noted Miles had not provided any evidence against his conviction and suggested that the defendant was obligated to present proof of his innocence.

As soon as the slide appeared before the jury, the Hendricks Superior Court stopped the presentation and called a sidebar. After conferring with both attorneys, Judge Mark Smith admonished the jury that the defendant was not required to present any evidence to prove his innocence or explain anything.

The defense did not request a mistrial or additional admonition.

On appeal, the trial court’s actions were upheld. The Court of Appeals did not find that a fundamental error had occurred in Antonio Miles v. State of Indiana, 32A01-1412-CR-509.   

The appellate panel noted the trial court acted as soon as the slide appeared and the deputy prosecutor never read the slide aloud to the jury although some of the jurors may have seen the contents. Citing Jerden v. State, 37 N.E. 3d at 498, the Court of Appeals found in light of the jury instructions, the admonition and the abundant evidence of guilt, Miles did not demonstrate the slide had “such an undeniable and substantial effect on the jury’s decision that a fair trial was impossible.”
 

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