Criminal law cases and Police witnesses
April 24, 2010 /
The NJ Appellate Division this morning ruled that it is improper for a prosecutor to attempt to vouch for the credibility of a police witness in summation. In Murphy, the prosecutor noted during summation that the officer who had testified in the case had no stake in the outcome of the trial and no reason to lie. In granting a new trial, the Court held that “[c]redibility was the critical issue in the case,” and the “State’s entire case rested on the testimony of the officer[.]When a jury must choose which of two opposing versions to credit, it simply cannot be said that the evidence is overwhelming.” Thus, when “the jury’s determination hinged completely on whether the jurors believed the officer[‘s] testimony or [defendant’s] testimony,” a prosecutor’s remark that exceeds the bounds of legitimate advocacy can never be deemed harmless.
Statements such as this are often made by the prosecutors at the time of their closing. Now the defense will have the opportunity to object to such a statement! The ‘no real stake in the outcome’ always created an uphill argument for defendants and I always argued that such a statement would impinge on the defendant’s right to remain silent as well.