July 17, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: Prosecutor’s Use of Word “Lie” Violates Defendant’s Sixth Amendment Right to Fair Trial

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Wend v. People on June 28, 2010.

Sixth Amendment Right to a Fair Trial—Prosecutorial Misconduct—Use of the Word “Lie”—Waiver of Appellate Right.

The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ conclusion that the prosecutor’s use of the word “lie” did not constitute reversible plain error. The Court emphasized that prosecutorial use of the word “lie” or any of its forms is categorically improper according to the Court’s established precedent. When there is no contemporaneous objection to the prosecutor’s conduct at trial, the Court reviews the misconduct for plain error, a standard that asks whether the fundamental fairness of the trial was compromised.

Here, the Court found that the prosecutor’s use of the word “lie,” viewed in light of the entire trial, does violate the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. The Court also concluded that, although defendant did not raise the issue of prosecutorial misconduct in her first appeal, she did not waive her right to appeal the issue because (1) the appellate court in the first appeal did not address all the issues presented; (2) this second appeal stems from a new conviction; and (3) the law regarding prosecutorial misconduct evolved considerably between the first and second appeals.

Summary and full case available here.

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