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Name: People v. Caldwell
Case #: H036965
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/17/2013

Prosecutor did not improperly vouch for prosecution witnesses, state facts not in evidence, or disparage defense counsel; any misconduct in commenting on the defendant’s failure to testify was harmless. During closing argument at Caldwell’s jury trial, his defense attorney suggested that the police officers were lying. The prosecutor responded in rebuttal that there was no reason for the officers to lie. On appeal, Caldwell asserted that the prosecutor’s statements during rebuttal impermissibly vouched for the officers who testified. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding that the comments did not amount to a personal assurance of the officers’ veracity, and there was no reasonable likelihood that the jury understood the statements in that way. Further, the prosecutor did not commit misconduct by referring to facts not in evidence when he said that a witness was “scared to death” to testify. The evidence supported the statements because the witness testified that she was afraid that something might happen to her if she testified. The prosecutor also commented on the compensation received by the main defense expert witness. Caldwell asserted that those statements impugned the defense attorney’s character by suggesting that the witness’s testimony had been purchased. The appellate court also rejected that contention, finding that argument suggesting that the witness was biased is well within acceptable trial practice. Finally, the prosecutor’s comment on Caldwell’s failure to testify, if error, was harmless in light of the court’s curative instruction.