Case Detail
CitationPeople v. Forbes, 975 N.Y.S.2d 490 (N.Y. App. Div. 2013)
Pros. First NameUKN
Pros. Last NameUKN
Trial Year2011
BodyAppeals court
OpinionThe New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held that the prosecutor's comments during summation operated to deprive the defendant of a fair trial: "The problem with the foregoing statement is three-fold. First, the comment made by the prosecutor relative to what the jury would need to believe in order to find that defendant was not guilty arguably shifted the burden of proof from the People to defendant. Additionally, the prosecutor's reference to a conspiracy in no way constitutes fair comment upon the evidence adduced. Although defendant indeed testified that Young and Ervin were not being truthful, he never suggested that the People's witnesses, among others, were engaged in a conspiracy to wrongfully convict him, and there is nothing in the record to support such a claim. Finally, there is no question that one of the jury's key roles in a criminal trial is to assess the credibility of the witnesses who testify on behalf of the People and, in those instances where the defendant takes the stand or otherwise presents witnesses in support of his or her defense, to weigh the credibility of the People's witnesses vis-a-vis the defendant's witnesses. Such a 'credibility contest' is entirely permissible, and there is nothing inherently prejudicial about that evaluative process. Here, however, the prosecutor's commentary set up a far different credibility contest by suggesting to the jury that it could believe defendant only if it also believed that the trial judge, among others, had permitted the People's witnesses to lie to the jury and/or otherwise engaged in some form of misconduct. Simply put, the prosecutor's conduct in pitting defendant against the very judge who had presided over the course of the trial was inexcusable and, despite defense counsel's prompt objection and County Court's appropriate curative instruction, the prejudicial impact of that conduct cannot be ignored."
Determination Year2013
Misconduct TypeTR: Impugning
TR: Inadmissible
TR: Inflammatory
TR: Misstating
C/S EffectReversal of conviction
Pros. Misc. ReportedUKN
Sanction TypeUKN
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