People v. Thompson, 2016 IL App (1st) 133648 (March). Episode 164 (Duration 5:47)
Some of the State’s remarks in closing relied on questionable advocacy, but did not rise to the level of clear and obvious error.
This was a drive by shooting.
The state’s “victim” lost her son and her nephew was injured. The prosecutor returned to the same theme again and again. This being the dead boy’s mother’s emotions and loss of her son.
What They Said
The State began its opening statement by focusing on the mother/aunt’s experience of the crime: how she would…
“never forget the sound of those bullets” and “the voice of her 15 year old nephew. Auntie, I’ve been hit.”
The State asked,
“What could be worse than witnessing your 15 year old nephew being shot, racing him to the hospital praying all the way that he doesn’t die?…her own son had been shot by that spray of bullets. Her nephew would be lucky enough to live to tell about that bloody day. Her son wouldn’t be so lucky.”
In rebuttal the state said:
“Is there any heart in this courtroom that wasn’t breaking for that woman as she was on the stand? Lost her son. Saw her nephew being shot. Is there anyone’s heart that does not break for that woman? Other than his maybe. She has been through hell.”
The reviewing court said this was not like People v. Blue, where the prosecution combined reminders to the jury of the pain endured by the victim’s family with a wealth of extraneous, nonprobative evidence that served “only one purpose, namely, to highlight the poignancy of the [victim’s] family’s loss and to suggest to the jury that the family’s pain could be alleviated by a guilty verdict.”
Nevertheless, the reviewing court did disapprove of the prosecution’s harping on the mother’s emotional state as a mother who had lost her child and its attempt to link the victim to the Iraq War.
But taken as a whole these statements were not so tainted as to raise the entire argument to the level of plain error.
This is but one example of the many things that can go wrong during a criminal trial.