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PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT -- SAMPLES - MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
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PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT -- SAMPLES

From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges

A NON-EXCLUSIVE LIST OF COMMON MISCONDUCT

It is improper to:

1. Express a personal opinion
a. Regarding witness credibility by either vouching for witness or stating belief that witness is lying
i. During examination[1]
ii. During closing argument[2]
b. Regarding Defendant’s guilt[3]
2. Inflame passions of jury
a. Using prior crime evidence to impugn Defendant’s character[4]
b. Arguing during opening statement[5]
c. Asking jurors to put themselves in victim’s shoes[6]
d. Evoke sympathy for victim[7]
i. Likely improper to address adult victim by first name.[8]
3. Inject issues broader than guilt or innocence
a. Race or socioeconomic status when not relevant to the case
i. Refer to Defendant’s “world” as different than “our world,”[9]
ii. Use jargon like “your baby mommas…” as racial clue[10]
b. Gratuitous attacks on Defendant’s character
i. “Do you lie to your multiple girlfriends by conducting simultaneous relationships…”[11]
ii. “He’s a small man who needs a big gun to make him feel big…”[12]
c. Conviction necessary for safety of community[13]
4. Intentionally misstate
a. Evidence
i. During questioning[14]
ii. During closing argument[15]
b. Law
i. Presumption of innocence[16]
1) It is per se improper to argue that the presumption of innocence is “meant to protect the innocent, not shield the guilty,”[17]
ii. Burden of proof[18]
1) Arguing that the State’s case is “undisputed” improperly shifts the burden of proof[19]
2) Comment on the Defendant’s failure to call a witness improperly shifts the burden of proof[20]
5. Inject self into proceedings
a. Align self with jury and exclude Defendant
i. “We aren’t a part of Defendant’s world,”[21]
b. Refer to prosecutorial experience
i. “I’ve tried a lot of cases, and I know…”[22]
c. Personalize evidence
i. “If my children were involved…”[23]
6. Ask “were they lying” questions to the Defendant, unless credibility central[24]
7. Accuse Defendant of tailoring testimony, unless supported by evidence[25]
a. Likely improper to impeach Defendant with failure to offer alibi prior to trial[26]
8. Elicit inadmissible evidence[27]
9. Refer to facts not in evidence[28]
10. Comment on Defendant’s election not to testify[29]
11. Improperly argue Spreigl evidence
a. As substantive proof of guilt
i. “Defendant did it before; he must be guilty now…”[30]
b. As character evidence
i. “Defendant is the kind of person who would…”[31]
12. Disparage
a. Defense[32]
b. Defense attorney[33]
13. Discourage witnesses from testifying by warning of jeopardy for self-incrimination of perjury in a way that discourages a voluntary and intelligent decision about testifying[34]


References:

  1. State v. Mayhorn, 720 N.W.2d 776 (Minn. 2006).
  2. State v. Porter, 526 N.W.2d 359 (Minn. 1995).
  3. State v. Salitros, 499 N.W.2d 815 (Minn. 1993).
  4. State v. Mayhorn, 720 N.W.2d 776 (Minn. 2006).
  5. State v. Montgomery, 707 N.W.2d 392 (Minn. App. 2005).
  6. State v. Johnson, 324 N.W.2d 199 (Minn. 1982).
  7. State v. Paul, 716 N.W.2d 329 (Minn. 2006).
  8. See State v. Olayiwola, 2007 WL 2034161, unpublished, (Minn. App. July 17, 2007).
  9. State v. Dobbins, 725 N.W.2d 492 (Minn. 2007).
  10. State v. Mayhorn, 720 N.W.2d 776 (Minn. 2006).
  11. State v. Mayhorn, 720 N.W.2d 776 (Minn. 2006).
  12. Francis v. State, 729 N.W.2d 584 (Minn. 2007).
  13. State v. Hoppe, 641 N.W.2d 315 (Minn.App.2002), review denied (Minn. May 14, 2002).
  14. State v. Mayhorn, 720 N.W.2d 776 (Minn. 2006).
  15. State v. Salitros, 499 N.W.2d 815 (Minn. 1993).
  16. State v. Salitros, 499 N.W.2d 815 (Minn. 1993).
  17. State v. Thomas, 239 N.W.2d 455 (Minn. 1976).
  18. State v. Coleman, 373 N.W.2d 777 (Minn. 1985).
  19. State v. Schneider, 249 N.W.2d 720 (Minn. 1977).
  20. State v. Fields, 237 N.W.2d 634 (Minn. 1976).
  21. State v. Mayhorn, 720 N.W.2d 776 (Minn. 2006).
  22. See State v. Abendroth, 2006 WL 2598207, unpublished, (Minn. App. September 12, 2006).
  23. See State v. Abendroth, 2006 WL 2598207, unpublished, (Minn. App. September 12, 2006).
  24. State v. Clifton, 701 N.W.2d 793 (Minn. 2005).
  25. State v. Swanson, 707 N.W.2d 645 (Minn. 2006).
  26. State v. Billips, 264 N.W.2d 137 (Minn. 1978); see State v. Dobbins, 725 N.W.2d 492 (Minn. 2007).
  27. State v. Harris, 521 N.W.2d 348 (Minn. 1994).
  28. State v. Mayhorn, 720 N.W.2d 776 (Minn. 2006).
  29. State v. Whittaker, 568 N.W.2d 440 (Minn. 1997).
  30. State v. Peterson, 530 N.W.2d 843 (Minn. App. 1995).
  31. State v. Washington, 521 N.W.2d 35 (Minn. 1994).
  32. State v. Greise, 565 N.W.2d 419 (Minn. 1997); State v. Salitros, 499 N.W.2d 815 (Minn. 1993).
  33. State v. Salitros, 499 N.W.2d 815 (Minn. 1993).
  34. State v. Graham, 764 N.W.2d 340 (Minn. 2009).