Prosecutor Commits Misconduct at Trial


Case: People v. Hardy

Court: Michigan Court of Appeals ( Unpublished Opinion )

Prosecutorial misconduct; People v. Dobek; People v. Solloway; Credibility; People v. Morton; People v. Rodriguez; Principle that a prosecutor may not convey a message to the jury that the prosecutor has some special knowledge or facts indicating the witness’s truthfulness; People v. Bahoda; Berger v. United States; People v. Pearson; People v. Lusk; People v. Dane

Summary:

Holding that the prosecutor committed misconduct that deprived defendant of a fair trial, the court vacated her conviction and remanded. She was convicted of assaulting, resisting, and obstructing a police officer. On appeal, the court found meritless her argument that it was improper for the prosecutor to repeatedly ask about a potential civil lawsuit. “Because the question properly weighed on defendant’s credibility, and because the prosecutor twice asking the question was entirely reasonable, . . . [her] repeated questioning of defendant about the potential civil lawsuit did not deprive defendant of a fair and impartial trial.” However, it agreed with defendant that the prosecutor committed misconduct by asking a question that implied she had personal knowledge about defendant’s credibility. “While the prosecution’s attempt at impeaching the witness was proper, the way she phrased the question was not.” In addition, the prosecutor’s conduct “denied defendant a fair and impartial trial.” The case turned on the witnesses’ credibility. The only evidence defendant had to support her defense was her testimony. The prosecutor’s question was “improper because it conveyed to the jury that the prosecutor had personal knowledge that defendant was being untruthful when she testified that she was not planning to file a civil lawsuit against the” police department. The “error was compounded when the prosecutor unambiguously stated that ‘defense counsel informed me that she is going to file a civil suit pending the adjudication of this litigation.’ Despite defense counsel’s timely objection, the trial court overruled the objection and failed to immediately give a curative instruction.” Thus, her improper question and statement were permitted “to stand before the jury, uncorrected. The prosecutor then argued at length that defendant was not credible because she was contemplating bringing a civil lawsuit against the [police]—the same fact that the prosecutor had insinuated, and then unequivocally stated, that she had personal knowledge to be true, despite defendant’s testimony that it was not. On this record, the prosecutor’s conduct deprived defendant of a fair trial.”

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