Greer v. Miller
In Greer v. Miller (1987) 483 U.S. 756, the defendant presented exculpatory testimony and the prosecution asked, "Why didn't you tell this story to anybody when you got arrested?" (Id. at p. 759.) Defense counsel immediately objected and, out of the jury's hearing, requested a mistrial based on Doyle error.
The defense counsel immediately objected to the prosecutor's question of the defendant why he did not tell his story when he was arrested. The court sustained the objection and instructed the jury to "'ignore the question, for the time being,'" but denied a motion for mistrial. (Greer, supra, 483 U.S. at p. 759.)
The prosecutor did not pursue the issue further or mention it during closing argument, and the defense counsel did not request an instruction concerning the prosecutor's question. The court did instruct the jury to "'disregard questions . . . to which objections were sustained.'" (Ibid.)
The trial judge denied the motion but immediately sustained the objection and instructed the jury to ignore the question for the time being. The prosecutor did not pursue the issue further or mention it during his closing argument. At the conclusion of all the evidence, defendant's counsel did not renew his objection or request an instruction concerning the prosecutor's question. Moreover, the judge specifically instructed the jury to disregard questions to which objections were sustained. The jury found defendant guilty but his conviction was set aside because of Doyle error. The United States Supreme Court reversed, finding no Doyle error.
The Supreme Court explained that a Doyle violation has two components. The first component is that the prosecution makes use of a defendant's post-arrest silence for impeachment purposes.
The second component is that the trial court permits that use, such as when it overrules a defense objection, thereby giving the jury the unmistakable impression that what the prosecution is doing is legitimate. Both elements are essential. (Id. at pp. 761-764.)
The Supreme Court held that because the trial judge explicitly sustained an objection to the only question that touched upon the defendant's post-arrest silence, no further questioning or argument regarding that silence occurred, and the trial judge specifically advised the jury that it should disregard any questions to which an objection was sustained, no Doyle error occurred. (Greer, supra, at pp. 764-765.)
The Supreme Court further held that the prosecutor's attempt to violate Doyle by asking an improper question in the presence of the jury did not violate the defendant's right to due process. (Greer, supra, 483 U.S. at pp. 765-766.)