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A district court judge in Clark County has ruled that a murder defendant should receive a new trial because prosecutors misled the jury during trial by contending that the defendant’s actions showed consciousness of guilt.

Prosecutors pointed to Mariann Harris’s failure to show up for interviews with Las Vegas police and Child Protective Services workers, as well as her move to California, as evidence that she beat her godson, Dyon Johnson, to death in 2011. However, her attorney argued that Harris was just following the advice of a defense attorney when she missed the interviews and only moved to California after police locked her out of her Las Vegas home. District Judge Abbi Silver agreed, ruling that the prosecutors’ insinuations to the jury were improper. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports:

During the trial several witnesses alluded to Harris’s failure to show up for scheduled interviews with homicide detectives and Child Protective Services, who had custody of her kids.

In his motion for a new trial, Coffee wrote that Harris had contacted defense lawyer Craig Mueller when she didn’t show up to the interviews, and had left a forwarding address and phone numbers with Child Protective Services when she went to California.

Coffee later challenged Harris’ conviction, arguing jurors were prejudiced by prosecutors who “forced into issue Harris’ invocation of her constitutionally secured right to remain silent and right to counsel in violation,” of the fifth and sixth amendments…

In ordering a new trial, Silver said “the prosecution repeatedly violated this Court’s orders by continuing to present to the jury insinuations of flight long after they were ordered to stop.”

The prosecution’s conduct was “disingenuous” and prejudiced the jury against Harris, Silver said in a Jan. 31 court filing.

The State is appealing the judge’s decision, but it is unclear whether the Nevada Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear the case because the judgment of conviction was not signed before Silver made her ruling.

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