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Name: People v. Shazier
Case #: H028674
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/08/2006
Subsequent History: Not citable. Rev Gr. 8/30/06; Rev. Dism. 5/14/08

A prosecutor committed misconduct by informing the jury of the consequences of a true finding in an SVPA case. At the defendant’s first trial that ended with a hung jury, the court granted a defense request that witnesses be prohibited from telling the jury what would happen if the petition were found to be true. The prosecution did not object to the request. In the second trial, defendant again requested that witnesses “be prohibited from telling the jurors that [defendant] would not go to prison, but would go to a hospital and receive treatment and no mention should be made of the right to have a trial after two years.” The trial court again granted the motion. During his rebuttal argument, the prosecutor told the jury that it should not speculate about what the defendant’s life would be like at Atascadero State Hospital if the jury were to find the allegations in the petition to be true. The appellate court found that the prosecutor had committed misconduct. Given the two in limine orders, and the fact that the court sustained defense objections to prosecution questions related to consequences, the court found that the prosecutor knew exactly what he was saying in his rebuttal, and that he had a definite purpose in his references to defendant staying at Atascadero State Hospital. The issue was not waived by defense counsel’s failure to seek a curative instruction, because such an instruction would have been futile. Because the case was a close one, and because the misconduct came at a critical point in the proceedings, the error was prejudicial and reversal was required.