King v. State
In King v. State, 9 Ark. App. 295, 658 S.W.2d 434 (1983) the Court reversed and remanded convictions for possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver upon finding that an officer's gratuitous remarks were so prejudicial that the court should have granted the defendant's motion for a mistrial.
The remarks were made in response to counsel's inquiry whether $ 105 found on the defendant during a pat-down search factored into the officer's conclusion that the defendant had been dealing in drugs. The officer answered that he was very familiar with the defendant, both at the time of the search and previously.
The officer further stated, "Through my investigation as a lieutenant at that time in charge of narcotics, the defendant's name has come up several times. I was very well aware that he is a known narcotics dealer." Id. at 296, 658 S.W.2d at 435.
The trial court, despite recognizing the statement as improper and prejudicial, denied the defendant's motion for a mistrial. Although the defendant objected to a curative instruction, the court instructed the jury that the answer was not responsive and was to be disregarded.
The decision included the following discussion:
"Here the statement was not merely a gratuitous one. It was one made by an officer with eight years experience on the narcotics squad who because of his rank of lieutenant would be assumed to have knowledge of those engaged in narcotics violations. His was an inferentially authoritative statement that appellant was known to the police as a narcotics dealer. The trial judge expressed doubts that an admonition would cure the prejudice and we think that doubt was well founded." Id. at 298, 658 S.W.2d at 436.