Can Prosecutor Share a Personal Experience With the Jury In Closing Arguments ?
In People v. Hayes, 183 Ill. App. 3d 752, 539 N.E.2d 355, 132 Ill. Dec. 45 (1989), the defendant was convicted of aggravated criminal sexual assault and kidnapping.
At trial, the victim testified that the defendant attacked and sexually assaulted her as she was walking to a gas station to buy cigarettes.
In closing arguments, the prosecutor shared with the jury a personal experience, similar to the victim's case, in which she was similarly followed by a man as she walked to the store to buy cigarettes.
This court held that the prosecutor's discussion of her experience was error because it improperly bolstered the victim's credibility and improperly appealed to the passions and prejudices of the jury. Hays, 183 Ill. App. 3d at 756, 539 N.E.2d at 358.
According to the court, the prosecutor's remarks exceeded any comment on the evidence and suggested that her previous experience was somehow relevant to the jury's decision, thereby injecting improper and irrelevant consideration into the jury's deliberations. Hays, 183 Ill. App. 3d at 757, 539 N.E.2d at 358.
The court additionally explained that the prosecutor "strongly implied that the victim's testimony should be believed because she too had faced a dangerous neighborhood on a late night, a short trek for cigarettes, and the fear of being attacked by a man chasing her." Hays,183 Ill. App. 3d at 757, 539 N.E.2d at 358.