The 1st District Court of Appeal reversed the murder conviction of an Oakland man, finding the Alameda County DA had presented material false evidence, and that fact together with defense counsel’s failure to investigate and present relevant evidence and failure to object to that prosecutorial misconduct combined to deprive the defendant of a fair trial.
Specifically, the court found that the prosecutor had argued facts not in evidence during his closing argument, disputing testimony given by a police officer as to a measurement of distance that might have supported the defendant’s theory of the case with his own assessment of the distance based on the length of a typical city block. In making repeated references to this unsupported assertion, the prosecutor implied that the alternative suspect in the case was simply too far away to have been the shooter. Other comments by the prosecutor about the shooter’s height and the defendant’s clothing during closing were also problematic.
The DA also failed to correct false evidence at trial, including testimony that gave the false impression that an alternative suspect had been ruled out after a thorough investigation by police, and false testimony from a key eyewitness that she had identified the defendant at a police “show-up” shortly after the crime, when in fact she had not.
The opinion highlights the ways in which prosecutors can use their uniquely powerful position to skew a set of complex and murky facts in order to present a straightforward case for guilt to a jury: such testimony, ‘although worthless as a matter of law, can be “dynamite” to the jury because of the special regard the jury has for the prosecutor…’”