A ''Witness Against Himself'' In Mississippi

The Mississippi and the United States Constitutions provide that no person may be compelled to take the witness stand against himself. The Mississippi Supreme Court has held that prosecutors are prohibited from making direct comments on the accused's failure to testify; they are also precluded from referring to the accused's failure to testify by innuendo and insinuation. Jones v. State, 669 So. 2d 1383, 1390 (Miss. 1995). However, balanced against the constitutional interest of not being compelled to testify is the broad latitude exercised by attorneys in closing arguments. Id. Thus, all statements must be looked at on a case by case basis. Id. There is a difference between a comment on the defendant's failure to testify and a comment on the failure to put on a successful defense. Id. Moreover, the State is entitled to comment on the lack of any defense, and such comment will not be construed as a reference to a defendant's failure to testify by innuendo and insinuation. Id.