Thursday, March 3, 2005

Prosecutor's closing: What's reasonable? Everybody's mistaken but the defendant?

In an unpublished opinion, Division 2 takes a look at how a prosecutor can discuss witnesses' credibility in closing argument. State v. Charles, 2005 Wash. App. LEXIS 233 (Wash. App. Feb. 8, 2005), Get a Document - by Citation - 2005 Wash. App. LEXIS 233

The argument included:

The theme of this trial has really turned out to be everybodys [sic] mistaken but the defendant, Niccole Charles; or, oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.
. . .
Circumstantial evidence is fact from which you can infer from reasonable experience. The reasonableness of someone's testimony. Think about it, it [sic] what's reasonable? Everybody's mistaken but Ms. Charles?

Now, again, witnesses can be mistaken, that does happen, but to believe Ms. Charles, you have to believe they're mistaken just not on a few things, they're mistaken on just about everything and on pretty much major things.

The court affirmed, remarking:

Although a prosecutor commits flagrant misconduct by arguing that in order to acquit a defendant, the jury must find that the State's witnesses are either lying or mistaken, * * * a prosecutor may properly draw inferences "from the evidence as to why the jury would want to believe one witness over another." * * *Furthermore, "where a jury must necessarily resolve a conflict in witness testimony to reach a verdict, a prosecutor may properly argue that, in order to believe a defendant, the jury must find that the State's witnesses are mistaken."

(citations omitted)

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