Pros Misconduct to Vouch for Cop’s Crediibility at Trial – State v. Murphy

[4/22/10 – 11:27 am] In an opinion that is of vital importance to prosecutors, the Appellate Division this morning ruled that it is improper for a prosecutor to attempt to vouch for the credibility of a police witness in summation. In Murphy, the prosecutor noted during summation that the officer who had testified in the case had no stake in the outcome of the trial and no reason to lie. In granting a new trial, the Court held that

“[c]redibility was the critical issue in the case,” and the
“State’s entire case rested on the testimony of the officer[.]
When a jury must choose which of two opposing versions to
credit, it simply cannot be said that the evidence is
overwhelming.” Thus, when “the jury’s determination hinged
completely on whether the jurors believed the officer[‘s]
testimony or [defendant’s] testimony,” a prosecutor’s remark
that exceeds the bounds of legitimate advocacy can never be
deemed harmless.

In addition, the Court also ruled that a 17-year old conviction should not have been used to impeach the testimony of the defendant during trial.

Download a copy of State v. Murphy.

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