Adams v. State (2011)

In Adams v. State, 261 P.3d 758 (Alaska 2011) the supreme court found plain error when, at the defendant's trial, the prosecutor elicited testimony that the defendant had not told his side of the story to the authorities prior to trial. The supreme court declared that Alaska law "protects a criminal defendant's right to remain silent both before and after arrest", and that "evidence of a defendant's pre-arrest silence will usually be inadmissible under Alaska Evidence Rule 403 due to its inherently low probative value and its high risk of unfair prejudice." Id. at 765. In Adams v. State, the supreme court discussed four factors a court should consider when determining whether a reference to the defendant's silence may constitute harmless error: (1) whether the conviction depended primarily on resolution of conflicting witness testimony; (2) whether any comments on the defendant's silence were made during the prosecutor's closing argument; (3) whether the reference was "express" rather than "brief and passing"; (4) whether the evidence was "directly elicited by the prosecutor's questioning."