State v. Ubaldi

In State v. Ubaldi, 190 Conn. 559, 462 A.2d 1001, cert. denied, 464 U.S. 916, 104 S. Ct. 280, 78 L. Ed. 2d 259 (1983), the trial court denied the defendant's motion for a mistrial after the prosecutor had urged the jury during closing argument to draw an unfavorable inference from the defendant's failure to call a witness whose testimony the court previously had excluded from the jury's consideration. 190 Conn. at 561. On appeal, the Court was asked to decide whether it should exercise its supervisory authority to grant a new trial where prosecutorial misconduct deliberately circumvented the trial court's ruling. Id. at 569-70. In reversing the trial court's decision, the Court noted that the trial court had not rebuked or admonished the prosecutor upon the defendant's objection to the improper argument and that the trial court's general instruction to the jury could not reasonably be viewed as obviating the harmfulness of the prosecutor's remarks. Id. at 574. The Court exercised its supervisory authority to order a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct. The court's words are also apropos where the misconduct deprives the defendant of a fair trial: "We are mindful of the sage admonition that appellate rebuke without reversal ignores the reality of the adversary system of justice. The deprecatory words we use in our opinions . . . are purely ceremonial. Government counsel, employing such tactics, are the kind who, eager to win victories, will gladly pay the small price of a ritualistic verbal spanking. The practice of verbal criticism without judicial action -- recalling the bitter tear shed by the Walrus as he ate the oysters -- breeds a deplorably cynical attitude towards the judiciary." Id., 571.