Wednesday, February 21, 2007

S.C. Supreme Court offers more guiadance on what is impermissible during closing arguments

In State v. Northcutt, Northcutt was found guilty of murdering an infant and was sentenced to death. However, because of an improper closing argument, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a new sentencing proceeding. In closing, the solicitor made the following improper comments/actions:

1. the solicitor suggested declaring an "open season on babies in Lexington County" if the death penalty was not returned.

2. The solicitor also repeatedly told the jury he "expects" the death penalty and, in doing so, ignored precedent which rebukes such an imposition of the solicitor's personal belief.

3. The solicitor concluded his argument by producing a large black shroud and draping it over the baby's crib. He wheeled the crib from the courtroom in a staged funeral procession.

These comments and actions, according to the court, so infected the trial with unfairness as to make the resulting conviction a denial of due process.

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