How not to sum up on a case

People v Casiano, 2017 NY Slip Op 02053 (2d Dept. 2017)

“The defendant correctly asserts that the cumulative effect of the prosecutor’s improper comments during summation requires a new trial. “[I]n summing up to the jury, [the prosecutor] must stay within the four corners of the evidence’ and avoid irrelevant and inflammatory comments which have a tendency to prejudice the jury against the accused” (People v Bartolomeo, 126 AD2d 375, 390, quoting People v Ashwal, 39 NY2d 105, 109). Here, during summation, the prosecutor repeatedly engaged in improper conduct. For instance, the prosecutor vouched for the credibility of the People’s witnesses with regard to significant aspects of the People’s case by asserting, inter alia, that “the witnesses who came before you provided truthful testimony that makes sense,” that they gave the “kind of truthful and credible testimony that you can rely on,” and that one witness had “no reason . . . to be anything but truthful with the 911 operator” (see People v Redd, 141 AD3d 546, [*2]548; People v Spence, 92 AD3d 905, 905-906; People v Brown, 26 AD3d 392, 393). In describing a complainant, the prosecutor asserted that he was “exactly what you hoped to see from someone who had troubles with the law in their youth,” but had “changed [his] life” and now worked at an organization that helps “low-income people [obtain] health care,” which was a clear attempt to appeal to the sympathy of the jury (see People v Smith, 288 AD2d 496, 497; see also People v Anderson, 83 AD3d 854, 856). To support the credibility of that same complainant, the prosecutor injected the integrity of the District Attorney’s office into the trial to downplay the severity of a past criminal charge he faced (see People v Carter, 40 NY2d 933, 934; People v Morgan, 111 AD3d 1254, 1256). Further, the prosecutor denigrated the defense and undermined the defendant’s right to confront witnesses by implying that the complainants were victims of an overly long cross-examination and that one was a “saint” for answering so many questions (see generally People v Brisco, 145 AD3d 1028; People v Baum, 54 AD3d 605, 606). Moreover, the prosecutor improperly used the defendant’s right to pretrial silence against him by arguing that he could not be a victim as he did not call 911 (see People v De George, 73 NY2d 614, 618). The cumulative effect of these improper comments deprived the defendant of a fair trial (see People v Calabria, 94 NY2d 519, 522; People v Crimmins, 36 NY2d 230, 237-238; People v Spann, 82 AD3d 1013, 1015).”

**Just read this.  When you hear this type of inflammatory remarks at your next jury trial, object and ask for a mistrial.  This is truly a primer of what NOT to do.

What should a lawyer do when a juror confronts this lawyer in a parking lot and tells him that she cannot start her car?

In LaChapelle v McLoughlin, 2009 NY Slip Op 09193 (2d Dept. 2009), we learn that the attorney should walk away and do nothing.

During the trial of this action, and after the jury had been discharged for the day, one of the jurors returned to the parking lot to find that her car would not start. The juror then noticed the respondents’ attorney nearby and asked if he could give her car a “jump” start. The attorney properly responded that he was not allowed to talk to the juror, but that he would go into the courthouse and inform a court officer. This was the entire encounter between the two and, in fact, by the time the respondents’ attorney emerged from the building, the juror already had obtained assistance from two other people. After this juror was questioned by the court and the plaintiff’s counsel, and after she assured the court that the “incident” would have no effect on her ability to be fair and impartial, the court concluded that the juror should not be removed from the panel. We agree.