What is prosecutorial misconduct?
Prosecutorial misconduct is when the prosecutor misbehaves to the point where the outcome of the trial was affected. If this happened in your case, there is the possibility that you may be able to win on a motion for a new trial. This motion would make the earlier conviction invalid and would allow you to begin the trial process from the beginning once again.
There are some common forms of prosecutorial misconduct, these include stating or referring to facts that have not been proven in the trial, referring to evidence that the judge has deemed inadmissible in court or that are inadmissible by nature, commenting on the defendant’s choice of whether or not to testify at their own trial, making statements that are designed to make the jury feel a certain way, and/or keeping evidence that could have helped the defense’s case from them.
Prosecutorial misconduct can occur at any point in the criminal court process; it can occur during a jury trial, or during pretrial or sentencing hearings. Even if one or more of the forms of prosecutorial misconduct takes place in a trial, it is necessary to show that there is some sort of prejudice elicited from the misconduct that affected the jury in order for the motion for a new trial to be granted.
Types of prosecutorial misconduct
As mentioned, one type of prosecutorial misconduct, asserting facts not in evidence, means that the prosecutor brought some fact or facts that have not been proven in the course of the trial to be true. It can be difficult to get a motion for a new trial based on this type of prosecutorial misconduct because the judge often feels that the jury can come to the conclusion that the facts were not supported on their own.
Referring to inadmissible evidence is another type of misconduct. This evidence can include hearsay, results of a polygraph or even evidence regarding the character of the defendant. Though prosecutors know that these are all not admissible, some may try to introduce them through backdoor methods.
Commenting on the defendant’s choice of whether or not to testify, another form of misconduct is not allowed. This is because the prosecutor may hint that there is something to hide if the defendant chooses not to testify.
There are some cases in which it is not appropriate for the prosecutor to state their personal opinions in court. If their opinions are not based on the evidence presented during the course of the trial, then they should not be stated because they could sway the jury. It is, however, appropriate for the prosecutor to state that they believe the defendant is guilty or that they do not believe a certain defense witness or witnesses are credible.
It can also be considered prosecutorial misconduct if the prosecutor makes statements that are inflammatory to the jury and that can influence their opinions on the case.
The method of prosecutorial misconduct that has the ability to be the most damaging is when the prosecutor withholds evidence from the defense that could have aided in their defense.
In any of these cases, it is necessary that your attorney object to the misconduct as it is occurring because without their objection the judge cannot instruct the jury to disregard the information. Without the judge’s instruction, there is almost no chance that your motion for a new trial will be accepted.
Ready to fight for you
If you or a loved one has been a victim of Prosecutorial Misconduct, you need an aggressive criminal defense lawyer on your side. With offices in Costa Mesa and San Diego, we serve people throughout Southern California. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.