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Washington Court Discusses Proving a Statement in a Criminal Trial is Prejudicial

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2020 | Assault

In a criminal case, it is the prosecution’s duty to try to convince the jury that the defendant is guilty of the charged offenses. The prosecution must remain within the confines of the law, however, and cannot introduce evidence or testimony that is improper, as it may be prejudicial and result in an unjust verdict. Recently, a Washington court discussed what constitutes an improper and harmful statement in a case in which the defendant was convicted of multiple crimes, including assault. If you are accused of assault, it is advisable to meet with a Washington assault defense attorney to determine your options.

History of the Case

It is alleged that the defendant was raised by the victim, who was his grandmother. As he grew older, their relationship deteriorated. He ultimately moved out and went to live with the victim’s former romantic partner. One evening he entered the victim’s home and injected drugs into his arm. The victim told him to leave, after which the defendant held a gun to her head, stating he would kill her. He then struck the victim in the head with the gun.

It is reported that the victim and another individual were found dead. The defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including assault and murder, to which he pleaded not guilty. During its closing statement, the prosecution directed the jury that it should feel right in the gut, heart, and head to find the defendant guilty. The defendant was convicted, after which he appealed, arguing that the statements were prejudicial and amounted to prosecutorial misconduct.

Proving a Statement in a Criminal Trial is Prejudicial

Under Washington law, a prosecutor is considered a minister of justice and not merely an advocate. A prosecutor must represent the public as a whole, which includes criminal defendants, and they have an obligation to ensure that a defendant’s right to a fair trial is not violated. Thus, they must seek convictions that are only based on reason and probative evidence. It stands to reason, therefore, that if a prosecutor seeks to convict a defendant based on emotions rather than facts, it constitutes improper conduct.

If a prosecutor’s improper conduct is prejudicial to a defendant, it requires a reversal of a conviction. In the subject case, the defendant argued that the prosecution’s closing statements were improper and prejudicial. The court agreed with the first part of the defendant’s argument, noting that the statements invited the jurors to use their emotions as well as their intellect to arrive at an appropriate verdict and were therefore improper. The court ruled, though, that the prosecution’s statements were not prejudicial, as the instructions the court gave to the jury were curative. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s conviction.

Meet with a Trusted Criminal Defense Attorney

Inaccurate and misleading comments made by the prosecution during a criminal trial can adversely affect a defendant’s rights. If you are charged with an assault crime, it is prudent to meet with an attorney to discuss your rights and potential defenses. The trusted Washington assault defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White will advocate zealously on your behalf to help you pursue the best legal outcome available. You can reach us via our form online or by calling us at 253-363-8662 to set up a conference.