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Prosecutorial Misconduct Gives Defendant New Trial


by in Criminal Appeals

State v. Terrance Lamont Travers, App. Div. Docket No. A-6044-07T4 (July 21, 2010) – “Because we conclude that the prosecutor made improper arguments during summation with respect to the robbery, carjacking, and one of the weapons counts, we reverse those convictions…. [T]he prosecutor improperly argued to the jury that Travers was responsible for the witnesses’ lack of memory through intimidation. As Travers points out, that portion of the summation was patently in contravention of the trial judge’s very specific direction at the time of the Rule 104 hearing…. There can be no doubt that the prosecutor intended to suggest to the jury that LaGuerre and Silver’s recent lack of memory resulted from fear of Travers…. There can also be no question that, in doing so, the prosecutor totally ignored the trial judge’s very specific direction, given twice, that he make no such argument…. Because the prosecutor never offered evidence that a threat was ‘actually received’ and never sought to persuade the judge to change her prior ruling, his argument was a blatant violation of the trial judge’s specific direction to him and patently improper…. The State’s entire case as it related to the carjacking and robbery rested on the jury’s acceptance of the truth of the statements given by LaGuerre and Silver. Despite the fact that the trial judge had twice put the intimidation argument out of bounds, the prosecutor was clearly attempting to bolster the credibility of their statements by arguing that the witnesses were so afraid of Travers that they were afraid to testify. Had the trial judge given a prompt direction that the jury disregard the prosecutor’s argument at the time, we would take a different view of the issue before us. The fact that the prosecutor’s inappropriate argument was allowed to stand unchallenged by the judge leads us to conclude that the prosecutor’s misconduct ‘raise[s] a reasonable doubt as to whether the error led the jury to a result it otherwise might not have reached.’






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