Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Two defendants -- Lawrence L. Bruce and Justin McKinley -- are jointly tried in connection with "their alleged involvement in and benefit from the activities of a prostitute, the complaining witness (CW). In response to the prosecutor's comment during rebuttal closing
that CW was “somebody's daughter, she's somebody's friend, she's a mother, she's a woman, she is a person,” McKinley objected on grounds that “this is a little bit far beyond arguing the evidence.” Bruce did not join McKinley's objection, nor did he raise one of his own. McKinley's objection was overruled.
Has Bruce reserved the issue for appellate review? This was the question of first impression that the Supreme Court of Hawai'i addressed in its recent opinion in State v. Bruce, 2017 WL 4480038 (Hawai'l 2017).
While this was a question of first impression in Hawai'i, the court noted that
Courts in other jurisdictions have adopted one of two approaches to resolve this issue. Several courts have held that when an objection by one co-defendant inures to the benefit of both defendants, the other co-defendant's failure to object or join in the objection does not waive the issue on appeal....
By contrast, other courts require a defendant to expressly join a co-defendant's objection, or independently raise his or her own objection, to preserve an issue on appeal.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court of Hawai'i
adopt[ed] the former approach over the latter for two reasons. First, to require all defendants, especially in cases where numerous defendants are being tried together, to chime in and affirmatively join in a co-defendant's objection, or object individually to the same issue, would impose upon courts a duplicative litany of redundant procedures that would disrupt the flow of the proceedings. Second, justice would not necessarily be served if a criminal defendant were denied the opportunity to raise an issue on appeal due to a mere technical error when the objection raised at trial also affected the defendant's case. “[T]he purpose of requiring a specific objection is to inform the trial court of the error.”...When a co-defendant raises an objection, this purpose is served, regardless of whether the other defendant joins the co-defendant's objection or objects independently. Therefore, we hold that an objection by a codefendant at trial sufficiently preserves the issue on appeal for another defendant tried in the same proceeding when the objection also applies to the non-objecting defendant's case, even if the non-objecting defendant does not join in the co-defendant's objection or object independently.
I agree with this conclusion. As the court noted, the purpose of requiring objections is so that the court is given notice of a potential issue and the opportunity to correct it. When one defendant raises an objection, this purpose is served, regardless of whether other defendants join in the objection. Therefore, I don't think that co-defendants should have to independently object or join in an objection.