State v. Green

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

At Green’s trial, the prosecutor opened to the jury that the State would call Greene’s grandmother as a witness, to whom 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, Greene’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 Greene’s incriminating statement to his grandmother was not likely forgotten by the jury, despite the trial court’s curative instruction.  Greene 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.