Appealing the Overruling of An Objection to Prosecutor's Argument to the Jury
In State v. Scott, 314 N.C. 309, 333 S.E.2d 296 (1985), the defendant contended that the trial court committed prejudicial error by overruling his objection to the prosecutor's argument to the jury.
The part of the prosecutor's argument to which Defendant objected and properly presented for appellate review was as follows:
Now, we often hear, we often read in the paper or hear on television or anything else, something that happens, there's a lot of public sentiment at this point against driving and drinking, causing accidents on the highway. And, you know, you read these things and you hear these things and you think to yourself, "My God, they ought to do something about that."
Well, ladies and gentlemen, the buck stops here.
You twelve judges in Cumberland County have become the "they". Id. at 311, 333 S.E.2d at 297.
The Supreme Court of North Carolina determined that "the trial court's failure to correct this argument upon timely objection requires that the convictions fall in the present case." Id.
The Court explained that the impropriety of the prosecutor's argument in the present case does not arise from his having told the jury that "the buck stops here" or that the jurors had become "judges" in the case or had "become the 'they'."
These statements correctly informed the jury that for purposes of the defendant's trial, the jury had become the representatives of the community. It is part of the established tradition in the use of juries as instruments of public justice that the jury be a body truly representative of the community. Permitting the jury to act as the voice and conscience of the community is required because the very reason for the jury system is to temper the harshness of the law with the commonsense judgment of the community. Id. at 311-12, 333 S.E.2d at 297-98.
However, the Court concluded that the prosecutor's statement that "there's a lot of public sentiment at this point against driving and drinking, causing accidents on the highway" was improper because "it went outside the record and appealed to the jury to convict the defendant because impaired drivers had caused other accidents." Id. at 312, 333 S.E.2d at 298.