Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vouching For Police Witness Credibility Leads To Reversal Of Conviction

The New Jersey Appellate Division has reversed a conviction for third degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance, concluded that the trial court had improperly allowed the defendant to be impeached by a 17 year old prior conviction. The court also held that the prosecutor had improperly vouched for the credibility of a police officer in summation:

While we agree with the State that the proescutor's remark here that a police officer had no incentive to lie is less egregious than the comments in [prior cases] that the officers would be fired if they lie, such distinction is of no moment. The remarks in question are of the very same character as those the [New Jersey] Supreme Court subsequently deemed improper in [a later case]. Therefore, the State's effort to minimize the harmful effect of the prosecutor's remarks by comparing them to those of [the earlier cases] is unpersuasive.

The remarks were made in response to the argument of defense counsel that the police version of events made no sense, to paraphrase: What kind of idiot would the defendant have to be to approach two people who were clearly identified as police and drop coccaine right in front of them? Defense counsel promptly objected to the prosecutor's " police had no motive to lie" rebuttal. (Mike Frisch)

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