State v. Butler

In State v. Butler, 55 Conn. App. 502, 739 A.2d 732 (1999), aff'd, 255 Conn. 828, 769 A.2d 697 (2001), the defendant moved for a mistrial immediately after the improper remarks were made, and the trial court lambasted the state's attorney in exceptionally harsh language. After a lunch recess, the defendant filed a written motion for dismissal, mistrial, surrebuttal time or a corrective instruction. Id., 506. "Despite stating that the prosecutor's comment was prejudicial, improper and unprofessional, the court denied the defendant's motions for dismissal and a mistrial, but granted the request for a curative instruction." Id. The trial court indicated its strong disapproval of the state's attorney's remarks immediately after the court had excused the jury in the following words: "That is absolutely some of the most impermissible argument I have heard. . . . I am so upset about this, and I am going to think about it during the lunch hour, but you might think about what I might send to the New York District Attorney." State v. Butler, supra, 55 Conn. App. 506. A footnote in the Butler decision indicates that "this was the prosecutor's final case before going to work in the district attorney's office in Brooklyn, New York." 55 Conn. App. at 506 n.4. The Court held that a prosecutor's comment during closing argument regarding the outcomes of the trials of the defendant's coconspirators deprived the defendant of his due process right to a fair trial. The Court explained that in criminal cases, "referring to what another jury may have done is clearly improper because the defendant's jury cannot permissibly rely on what they may assume a previous jury to have found. . . . Such conduct raises the concern that a defendant might be convicted based upon the disposition of the charges against the co-conspirator, rather than upon an individual assessment of the remaining defendant's personal culpability." Id., 513.