A murder conviction was reversed due to a prosecutor’s misstatement of law regarding an element of the crime that was central to the evidence presented at trial
United States v. Williams, 2016 BL 287661, D.C. Cir., No. 12-3029, 9/2/16.
The D.C. Circuit found that a prosecutor’s misstatement of law was egregious enough to warrant a reversal of a murder conviction because it implicated the mens rea requirement of the crime. The court found that the prosecutor misstated the law which could have “led some jurors to believe they could not consider the victim’s consenting behavior,” even though the jury instructions were accurately presented. The court feared that the instructions, however, did not go far enough to cure the inaccurate closing argument by the prosecutor. The court emphasized that the intent statement made by the prosecutor was problematic because “it effectively forbids the jury from considering certain evidence, rather than merely telling the jury which elements it must find and how to weigh the evidence.”