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Thursday, June 28, 2012

More On "Yes, Virginia . . ." Post

I've gotten a couple of interesting emails and phone calls about my post earlier today that included a link to the Chicago Tribune article about racial comments made during the prosecution's closing argument in a Southern Illinois murder case.  There is, of course, more to the story than made it into the Chicago Tribune article.  The case was a difficult one for the prosecution because key witnesses recanted their stories.  In addition, there were racial overtones from the beginning of the trial, with one juror reporting to the judge that an African-American male had followed her home on one of the trial days.

The regional paper in these parts, The Southern Illinoisan, published a story today (here is a link to the story) about the controversy.  This story includes interviews with both the prosecutor and the defense counsel.  The prosecutor explains the context of his remarks, and the defense attorney discusses his decision not to object (he'd already lost several objections to prosecution remarks and comments and was worried about losing yet another objection and having the jury hold it against him) and his post-trial motion for a new trial based in part on the egregious nature of the closing argument.

I still think the comments were improper, but I believe they were maladroit rather than malicious.  And at least I now know why the defense attorney didn't object, but it was surely a risky gamble to stay silent and hope for relief on appeal.

And having read both articles, I appreciate even more Judge Erickson's commentary in the original article.  It's easy to see why none of his evidentiary  rulings were ever reversed on appeal.

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