Case Detail
CitationPeople v. Cotton, 242 A.D.2d 638, 662 N.Y.S.2d 135 (N.Y. App. Div. 1997)
Pros. First NameCharles
Pros. Last NameHynes
Trial Year1994
BodyAppeals court
OpinionThe New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, held that a reversal was required, due to the prosecutor's summation argument advancing a theory premised on a fact that he knew to be false in order to discredit the defendant's justification defense. "While the prosecutor's attack on the defendant's justification defense during summation was not objected to at trial, we nevertheless feel compelled, under the circumstances of this case, to reach the issue in the exercise of our interest of justice jurisdiction and to reverse . . . As the Court of Appeals noted in People v. Pelchat . . .the prosecutor 'is charged with the duty not only to seek convictions but also to see that justice is done' and 'owes a duty of fair dealing to the accused and candor to the courts'. The interest of justice is disserved when, as here, a prosecutor during summation advances a theory premised on a fact that he knows to be false in order to discredit the defendant's justification defense [citation omitted]. It is undisputed that the prosecutor knew that the .32 caliber gun, which the defense contended the decedent aimed at the defendant, was inoperable. Yet, in attacking the defendant's justification defense, the prosecutor argued on summation that if the decedent had drawn a gun as the defendant contended, the defendant would not have had time to turn around, take two or three steps, receive a gun from someone in the crowd, turn back and fire four bullets before the decedent was able to fire a single shot. This blatant misrepresentation of the facts as known to the prosecutor went to the heart of the defendant's justification defense, a defense which the prosecutor was obligated to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt. Reversal is required because the prosecutor's misconduct in summation may very well have tipped the scales against the defendant, especially in light of the less than overwhelming evidence of the defendant's guilt [citations omitted]. Because the prosecutor's misconduct was flagrant and closely related to the credibility issue presented at trial, the defendant's case was substantially prejudiced [citations omitted]."
Determination Year1997
Misconduct TypeTR: Mischaracterizing
C/S EffectNew trial
Pros. Misc. ReportedUKN
Sanction TypeUKN
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