We are all so used to being able to use technology to instantly play whatever we want, that one might expect that the jury can hear a replay of testimony even during a lawyer’s closing argument. How such requests are handled in the practicalities of trial was explored by Maryland’s highest court in an opinion […]
We are all so used to being able to use technology to instantly play whatever we want, that one might expect that the jury can hear a replay of testimony even during a lawyer’s closing argument. How such requests are handled in the practicalities of trial was explored by Maryland’s highest court in an opinion filed last week in the case of Wesley Cagle v. State of Maryland.
The Court of Appeals’ opinion indicates that Cagle was a police officer, who responded with two other officers to a security alarm at a convenience store. The masked suspect exited the store and, while apparently reaching for something shiny in his waistband, had been shot by two officers. Cagle then approached the suspect lying on the ground, exchanged words with him, and shot him again in the groin. The suspect testified that he cursed at Cagle and that is why he shot him, while Cagle claimed self-defense. Another officer testified that the threat was over when the last shot was fired.
Cagle was indicted for attempted murder and other crimes. Defense counsel asked the trial judge for permission to play a Power Point presentation during closing argument, that would include portions of a witness’ pretrial statement, as well as excerpts from selected trial testimony. The trial judge allowed use of video of the pretrial statement, but would not allow the replay of trial testimony.
The judge reasoned that she did not want the jury to think they would be there all week listening to replays of testimony, and that allowing these excerpts may give the impression that the testimony of one witness was more important than others. Counsel was allowed to argue as he wished about what the testimony had been and its import to the case. The jury convicted Cagle of assault and unlawful use of a firearm, and he appealed.
The Court of Appeals noted that while lawyers have great leeway in discussing the evidence that had been presented, the trial judge has broad discretion to decide the permissible scope of closing argument. Even though the judge said she was applying her standard rule not to allow excerpts to be played of trial testimony, she indicated that in this case there was no reason to depart from her usual practice. The Court of Appeals found that it was not an abuse of discretion for the trial court not to allow selected video portions of testimony to be played for the jury for the reasons stated by the trial judge.