Saturday, April 19, 2014

Pervasive improper questions and argument requires new trial

Samuel Schirer won in State v. Ramey, No. 108,597 (Kan. App. March 28, 2014), obtaining a new trial in a Montgomery County aggravated burglary prosecution.  The COA found several instances of improper questioning and argument, including reference to inadmissible evidence, personal comments about credibility, and making inflammatory comments:
In support of the argument that the prosecutor's comments were gross and flagrant, Ramey states the prosecutor was experienced and there are no recent developments in the law that would justify the comments. He argues the prosecutor committed misconduct 23 times and, thus, the misconduct was not isolated by any stretch of the imagination. While we do not count 23 instances of misconduct, we believe the prosecutor committed misconduct in several instances: (1) the allegation of prior crimes of theft or dishonesty; (2) the bizarre nature of Ramey's story and how he allegedly manufactured his defense; (3) the vouching for [the complaining witness'] credibility; (4) the inappropriate question about [the complaining witness'] drinking habits; and (5) the trial causing more pain to [the complaining witness].
After reviewing the evidence, the COA concluded that the improper argument required reversal:
While there was substantial evidence against Ramey, the facts also made for a plausible voluntary intoxication defense. Because the improper comments were so numerous and prejudicial, and because the State's case, although strong, was not overwhelming, we find there was cumulative error which requires reversal and remand for a new trial.
[Update: the state did not file a PR and the mandate issued on May 1, 2014.]

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