Prosecutorial Misconduct – State v. Daniels

Yesterday’s decision by the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Daniels creates new rules of law affecting criminal procedure. The decision in Daniels relates to comments in summation by the prosecutor, urging the jury to believe that since the defendant sat through the trial and listened to the testimony, he was able to “tailor” his own testimony to be consistent with the versions presented by other witnesses.

The Supreme Court found that there are generally two types of “tailoring” arguments that prosecutors make in summation. One is a “generic” argument which alleges in general terms and without evidence that the defendant tailored his testimony after listening to the testimony of the previous witnesses witnesses. The other type is a “specific” tailoring argument, based upon actual evidence in the record of the trial.

As a result of the Daniels case, New Jersey prosecutors are now forbidden from using generic references to “tailoring” in both their summations and in cross examination. Prosecutors may comment in a limited fashion when there is specific evidence of “tailoring” in the trial record. However, in no event may a prosecutor argue to the fact-finder that the defendant was in court throughout the trial, heard the testimony of all the witnesses and was thus able to tailor his own testimony to be consistent with those facts that are helpful to the defense case.

Download a copy of State v. Daniels

Copyright muni-mail – 2004 – all right reserved.

Category: Muni-Mail Archive