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State v. Green

New Jersey Supreme Court

June 23, 2020

After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of murder. On appeal, he argued the prosecutor’s opening statement was unfairly prejudicial. The Appellate Division reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The Supreme Court of NJ affirmed.

At Green’s trial, the prosecutor opened to the jury by claiming that the State would call the defendant’s grandmother as a witness because he allegedly confessed his guilt in the shooting death of the victim. The prosecutor gave a detailed description of the grandmother’s expected testimony and a prediction of the emotional struggle she would encounter as a witness against her grandson. Before trial, the defendant’s grandmother recanted the statement that she gave to the police. She also refused to testify.

The Court held that the prosecutor’s detailed account of the defendant’s incriminating statement to his grandmother was not likely forgotten by the jury, despite the trial court’s curative instruction.  The defendant did not receive a fair trial, particularly because the evidence against him was not overwhelming and the prosecutor’s opening had the capacity to tip the scales in favor of a conviction. 

Scroll down to read the court's full opinion

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