Penal Code Section 1044 Interpretation
Penal Code section 1044 provides: "It shall be the duty of the judge to control all proceedings during the trial, and to limit the introduction of evidence and the argument of counsel to relevant and material matters, with a view to the expeditious and effective ascertainment of the truth regarding the matters involved."
"One of the areas where a trial court has the responsibility to exercise its discretionary powers is in connection with improper argument by the defense as well as the prosecution." ( People v. Ponce, supra, 44 Cal.App.4th at p. 1388.)
Argument is improper when it is neither based on the evidence nor related to a matter of common knowledge. ( People v. Mayfield (1997) 14 Cal.4th 668, 802; People v. Bell (1989) 49 Cal.3d 502, 538 improper to argue, without any evidence, that "Cocaine is a downer. You don't go out and shoot people on cocaine. You make love; you're mellow.")
"Counsel may refer the jury to nonevidentiary matters of common knowledge, or to illustrations drawn from common experience, history, or literature citation, but he may not dwell on the particular facts of unrelated, unsubstantiated cases." ( People v. West (1983) 139 Cal.App.3d 606, 611 "'Whether a particular newspaper or magazine article should be read to the jury, is a matter that is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court.'"; see also People v. London (1988) 206 Cal.App.3d 896, 909 trial court properly excluded Time magazine article on eye-witness identification.)
Penal Code section 1044 vests the trial court with broad discretion to control the conduct of a criminal trial. In exercising its discretion under section 1044, a trial court must be impartial and must assure that a defendant is afforded a fair trial. When there is no patent abuse of discretion, a trial court's determinations under section 1044 must be upheld on appeal. (People v. Cline (1998) 60 Cal.App.4th 1327, 1333-1334; People v. Marshall, supra, 13 Cal.4th at p. 855.)
An appellate court reviews rulings on the scope of argument for abuse of discretion. (Marshall, supra, 13 Cal.4th at pp. 854-855.) No abuse occurs where the trial court's ruling controls the scope of closing argument and does not preclude the defendant from making his central point. (Ibid.)
For example, in People v. Mendoza (1974) 37 Cal.App.3d 717, the defendant was convicted of committing a lewd act on a child under the age of 14. on appeal, he contended that the trial court had erred in barring defense counsel from reading two newspaper clippings about unrelated cases in which children were reported to have fabricated accusations against innocent men. (Id. at p. 725.) the Court of Appeal held that the trial court "properly denied defense counsel license to read newspaper clippings about unrelated specific crimes, hearsay material which could only confuse the jury with irrelevant facts." (Ibid.)