CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, June 2, 2005

Ninth Circuit Reverses Conviction Due To Prosecutor's Closing Statements

From  "A prosecutor who argued to the jury that government witnesses who were police officers risked their jobs if they did not tell the truth, and who later admonished the jury to convict the defendant in order to reduce crime generally, committed misconduct that requires the reversal of the defendant's conviction, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held in United States v. Weatherspoon, 9th Cir., 03-10551. In this close case, the improper arguments deprived the defendant of his due process right to a fair trial, the court decided.  At the defendant's trial for being a felon in possession of a firearm, some of the witnesses for the prosecution were police officers who linked the defendant to the gun. During closing arguments, the prosecutor told the jury that, if the officers' testimony against the defendant was false, the officers "risk losin' their jobs, risk losin' their pension, risk losin' their livelihood. And on top of that if they come in here and lie, I guess they're riskin' bein' prosecuted for perjury."  Additionally, the prosecutor told the jury that convicting the defendant "is gonna make you comfortable knowing there's not convicted felons on the street with loaded handguns," and that "finding this man guilty is gonna protect other individuals in this community.""  Decision here.  [Mark Godsey]

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