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T. Thomas Metier
T. Thomas Metier
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Can a Trial Court’s Errors and Prosecutorial Misconduct Give Rise to a Mistrial?

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In the People v. Howard-Walker (2017COA81), the defendant argued that mistakes by the trial court and prosecutorial misconduct should have led to a mistrial. The Colorado Court of Appeals disagreed.

A jury convicted defendant, Kyree Davon Howard-Walker (“Howard-Walker”), of first degree burglary and conspiracy to commit first degree burglary. Howard-Walker appealed his conviction on several grounds. First, he claimed that the prosecution’s peremptory strikes of an African-American and two Hispanics from the jury were not made on a race-neutral basis like the prosecutor stated. Howard-Walker called the reasons unworthy of belief. Next, Howard-Walker claimed there was testimony from one of the investigating detectives that was admitted improperly. Next, he said the court failed to properly instruct the jury on the crime of theft and did not define “intent.” He also claims that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct and that that the effect of these errors requires reversal.

During jury selection, the person challenging a peremptory strike must make a prima facie showing that the prosecutor used a peremptory strike to exclude a prospective juror based on his or her race. If that first step is completed, the burden shifts to the prosecutor to give a race-neutral reason for the strike. Once the prosecutor does that, it is up to the Court to decide whether the reasons given were plausible. If the reason is not race-neutral, the Court can deny the strike. In this case the Court found the reasons given to be acceptable and race-neutral.

The Court of Appeals agreed that there were errors during the trial, most resulting from prosecutorial overreach. Howard-Walker’s counsel did not object to most of these errors, which did not preserve them on appeal. None of these errors required reversal. These errors did not substantially prejudice Howard-Walker’s right to a fair trial. Therefore, under the cumulative error doctrine, there are no grounds for reversal. Therefore, the Colorado Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment.

The Metier Law Firm is committed to assisting people with personal injury claims throughout Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska, and we frequently serve as co-counsel to law firms nationwide. Tom Metier recently secured the largest personal injury verdict in Colorado.