The Providence Journal reports that a man has had his conviction for drug possession overturned because an assistant attorney general misrepresented his criminal history and used false information against him during cross-examination.
Specifically, the prosecutor, Maria Deaton, suggested that the defendant had received a suspended sentence for using crack when in fact he had received a sentence of probation. In the same exchange, Deaton asked the defendant if he had a prior charge for possession of crack with intent to distribute, when in fact he had only been charged with simple possession (his defense on the current charge was that he possessed drugs for personal use, not to sell them.)
In its opinion, the Rhode Island Supreme Court agreed with the defendant that the unfounded questioning of the prosecutor prejudiced his trial:In particular, we are troubled by the questions concerning the nature of the offense with which defendant was previously charged. Not only did these questions place factually incorrect information before the jury, they also impermissibly introduced false evidence of defendant’s previous criminal conduct… The fact that the party introducing this false evidence was the state’s prosecuting authority, and presumably a repository of defendant’s criminal record, only exacerbated the prejudice to defendant.
The Court ordered a new trial in the case. It’s opinion is available here.