The Connecticut Appellate Court has reversed a murder conviction in the hopes that doing so “will have the effect of deterring” Assistant State’s Attorney Terence Marianai Jr. of Waterbury County from continuing to engage in prosecutorial misconduct.
In an 18 page opinion delivered yesterday, Judge Michael Sheldon summarized:Because we conclude that Mariani has engaged in a deliberate pattern of improper conduct in this case and others, and he remains undeterred by pronouncements by this court and our Supreme Court that his conduct was improper, we believe that nothing short of reversal will have the effect of deterring him. We thus reverse the defendant’s judgment of conviction and remand the case for a new trial.
The Court found that Mariani had used improper arguments in both the closing and rebuttal of the case, violating a court order to only refer to the defendant’s gang involvement under very limited circumstances by frequently referring to him as a “gang-banger.” The State conceded these errors on appeal.
The Court further found that Mariani’s references to the defendant as a gang member and his disparaging comments about the defendant’s wife and children were an attempt to inflame the passions of the jury and have them decide the case on the basis of the defendant’s character rather than the evidence against him.
In its opinion, the Court referred to a previous finding of misconduct in State v. Bermudez (2005) when the Connecticut Supreme Court found Mariani’s statements to the jury to be of a similar nature.
In a sub-section titled “Mariani’s Improprieties in Other Cases”, the Court layed out numerous cases in which Mariani was found to have made improper arguments at trial: State v. Ortiz, State v. Heredia, State v. Dillard, State v. Moore, State v. Blackwell, State v. Warholic. The Court likened Mariani to a prosecutor reprimanded in State v. Payne, whom the Court judged as having committed flagrant and deliberate misconduct:This experienced prosecutor flagrantly violated a rule that is so basic we can only conclude it was deliberate. Such deliberate appeals to juror sympathy cannot, and will not, be countenanced.
Mariani did not comment when wtnh.com tried to contact him after the Court’s decision was handed down. His supervisor told wtnh.com that he was a ‘respected and hard-working prosecutor who has tried an “utterly amazing” number of cases.’
When asked whether Mariani would face discipline for his misconduct, his supervisor told wtnh.com: “Every time there is a decision on prosecutorial misconduct … we take those decisions seriously and we do our level best to make sure those instances don’t ever happen again.”
If that is true, then it seems her office needs to do more than its level best. The Appellate Court was so displeased with Mariani’s recurring misconduct that it resorted to overturning a murder conviction in order to deter him.