The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the conviction in a Medina County arson case because the prosecutor in the case made improper comments about the defendant’s lack of credibility during closing argument.
Judge Donna Carr was joined by Presiding Judge Eve Belfance and Judge Beth Whitmore in the majority, which ruled on the case in the first week of July. The Court held: “Although the state is generally accorded a certain degree of latitude during closing argument, the prosecutor is a servant of the law whose interest in a prosecution is not merely to emerge victorious but to see that justice shall be done.”
Daily Legal News has this report:During closing argument, the state repeatedly commented on Labriola’s testimony as untruthful, implausible and full of lies. For instance, the state asserted, “This man right here, Vincent Labriola, his testimony is full of mistruths and lies … You heard what I call and what I submit to you is false testimony of the defendant.” The assistant prosecutor also asserted that Labriola’s “excuses” were implausible and that he “in fact, lied.” The state argued that he was “a liar throughout the case.” “The state even went so far as to effectively inform the jury that they must either believe or discount all testimony from any single witness,” wrote Carr. The court of appeals concluded that the repeated comments about Labriola’s untruthfulness crossed the line into impropriety. “In fact, the crux of the state’s argument was that Labriola lied under oath, while the state’s witnesses told the truth.” Concluding that the state’s misconduct deprived Labriola of his constitutionally protected right to a fair trial, the Medina County court’s conviction was reversed and the matter remanded.