Society places a tremendous amount of trust in prosecutors. They are vested with the power to pursue criminal charges and keep the average citizen safe. However, sometimes prosecutors step outside the bounds of what they are ethically allowed to do, confusing juries or avoiding legal arguments to obtain a conviction at all costs.
However, if a prosecutor convinces a jury to convict a defendant on these grounds, a court reviewing the case will find that obvious prosecutorial misconduct exists, and the conviction can be vacated, as recently illustrated in the Second District Court of Appeals case People v. Mpulamasaka.
People v. Mpulamasaka and Prosecutorial Misconduct
In Mpulamaska, the defendant was placed on trial based on allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman outside of a Highland Park restaurant in 2011. The trial commenced in 2013, with the defendant claiming that the sexual encounter between he and the woman was consensual.
The issue of prosecutorial misconduct arose in the closing arguments, at which time the state’s attorney used several tactics to invoke a purely emotional response from the jury, including sitting in the witness stand and talking about the courage of the alleged victim while questioning the defendant’s versions of events. The appellate court called this conduct by the state’s attorney “troubling.”
The court held that while there is no clear law or ethical rule that bars a prosecutor from sitting in the witness stand during closing arguments (and indeed prosecutors have quite a bit of leeway in making these arguments), this act amounted to vouching for the woman’s story, which is barred by ethical rules.
The court of appeals believed that the conduct of the prosecutor in Mpulamaska was so prejudicial that the defendant would not have been convicted of aggravated sexual assault but for the actions of the state’s attorney. Accordingly, the verdict of the jury was reversed.
Types of Prosecutorial Misconduct to Watch Out For
While Illinois courts have never dealt with a case quite like Mpulamaska before, there are several other things prosecutors may do that are always considered misconduct including:
· Arguments or other statements intended to confuse the jury or draw attention to irrelevant issues
· Arguments meant to appeal more to emotion to logic, including using terms such as “predator” to describe a defendant
· Misstating expert testimony or improperly questioning the reputation of an expert
· Accusing counsel for the defendant of trying to confuse the jury or otherwise acting unethically without any grounds for making such claims
Any of this conduct is grounds for seeking appeal of a conviction.
Chicago Criminal Appeals Attorney
Prosecutors are required to prove the guilt of a defendant beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction, but there are limits on how far they can go to prove a case. If the statements by made by a prosecutor in the course of a trial amount to misconduct, it may be grounds to have your conviction vacated. For more information about appealing a criminal conviction in Illinois, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today to speak with an attorney about your case.
Courts have long recognized the civil right of the accused to have counsel present during custodial interrogations. If you are suspected of a crime and the police bring you in for questioning, they must end the conversation if you ask for an attorney. This is one of the hallmarks of the well-known Miranda warning police must recite in the course of an arrest.
Curiously though, the right to counsel doesn’t automatically extend to minors in all cases in Illinois though this population is the among the most vulnerable for self-incrimination. However, a new law may soon change that.
When Minors Do and Do Not Have the Right to Legal Counsel in Illinois
Under the current law, any minor under the age of 13 must have an attorney present if police wish to question him or her about a murder or sex crime. If the minor says anything to police without an attorney present, it will not be admitted at trial.
While this law is good for extremely young defendants, it has long left those between the ages of 13 and 18 out in the cold. This group is more likely to be accused of a serious crime than extremely young defendants, and may not fully understand the legal consequences of speaking with police officers.
Senate Bill 2370 now looks to change that, however. As it currently stands, the bill would require an attorney to be present anytime someone under the age of 18 is questioned about any crime, not just the most serious offenses. Any sort of oral or written statement made while outside the presence of legal counsel would be inadmissible in court unless a prosecutor could show by a preponderance of the evidence that the statement was reliable and made voluntary without any coercion from police officers. In addition, minors could not waive the right to counsel under any circumstances.
The law would also broaden the definition of what constitutes an interrogation for a minor to include any situation in which the minor would reasonably believe that he or she is in police custody and which might elicit an incriminating response.
The bill has garnered more than a dozen co-sponsors on the Illinois Senate, and amendments added to it in committees have only strengthened its protections for minors accused of crimes. The bill is scheduled for a third reading in the Senate in May.
Chicago Defense Lawyer
The right to counsel is one of America’s post important constitutional rights, and should be extended to minors in all circumstances. If you ask for an attorney to be present while being questioned by police and officers refuse to provide you with counsel, anything you say may be barred from evidence at trial, and this could be used as grounds for an appeal of your conviction. For more information about the right to counsel and the appeal process in Illinois, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today for a consultation about your case.
One of the most dramatic moments in crime TV shows or movies is when a victim is brought the police station to pick an assailant out of a lineup. Lineups are not quite as common in real life, but they are sometimes part of police work. However, lineups have also been known to be the source of many wrongful convictions. So to protect the constitutional rights of defendants, Illinois has put a series of laws in place directing the specific procedures that police must follow when conducting a lineup.
Illinois Requirements for Police Lineups
Under Illinois law, police officers may conduct either photo lineups or live lineups in which several people who match the description given by the victim are brought in for identification. Photo lineups usually include at least six photos, if not several more. Typically, only five or six people with similar appearances are brought in for a live lineup.
Several amendments to the law that went into effect in 2015 now require police lineups to meet the following requirements:
Contact a Chicago Police Misconduct Attorney
Police lineups can be a useful investigative technique, but the law is clear that police must follow certain very specific procedures when conducting these lineups to ensure they are not overly prejudicial toward a suspect who may be innocent. If you’ve been convicted of a crime largely based on a faulty police lineup, you may be able to get your conviction overturned on appeal. For more information about police lineups and the appeal process in Illinois, contact the Chicago offices of Barney & Hourihane today to discuss your case with an attorney.