Manslaughter Conviction Reversed in New York

In People v. Cotton, 242 AD2d 638, 639, 662 N.Y.S.2d 135, (2d Dept. 1997), the defendant's conviction for manslaughter was reversed in the interest of justice due to the prosecutor's "blatant misrepresentation of the facts as known to the prosecutor." The misrepresentation concerned the operability of a firearm possessed by the deceased which the prosecutor asserted in his summation was operable despite his knowledge of a ballistics report showing it was, in fact, inoperable. The conviction was reversed even though defense counsel was also in possession of this same ballistics report but made no objection to the prosecutor's comments. Those comments had the effect of refuting the defendant's claim that he shot the deceased in self-defense after the deceased first pointed a gun at him. People v. Cotton demonstrates that where the prosecution knowingly misrepresents critical facts in summation, even without objection by the defense, there may be a reversal in the interests of justice, notwithstanding the fact that the defense should have been aware that the prosecution was misrepresenting the facts.