Appeal Win on Prosecutor Misconduct Grounds
Steven Knecht won a reversal on appeal of a dealing in marijuana conviction based on the prosecutor’s misconduct of using the defendant’s silence after the defendant had been read his Miranda rights against him in the jury trial.
When a defendant who has been arrested and given Miranda warnings chooses to remain silent thereafter, the State may not impeach his exculpatory story which he tells for the first time during trial by making reference to his failure to tell the story at the time of his arrest. This use of a defendant's post-arrest silence violates his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.
A police officer made a traffic stop of the defendant’s vehicle after it was seen leaving a residence suspected of illegal drug dealing. The defendant was informed of his Miranda rights by the officer. The defendant told the police officer he wanted to speak to a lawyer.
At trial, the prosecutor asked the defendant after he testified "did you say "officer there's been a terrible miscarriage, I didn't know what was going on, I was innocently duped?...Did you, yes or no?...did you tell the officer you had just been innocently duped into a drug buy? Yes or no?" The defendant’s trial counsel failed to object to these improper questions.
Knecht successfully convinced the Court of Appeals that the prosecutor’s use of the defendant’s post-Miranda silence to impeach his trial testimony was fundamentally unfair resulting in the reversal of the dealing conviction.