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State v. Washington

626 So. 2d 841 (1993)

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State v. Washington

Louisiana Court of Appeal

626 So. 2d 841 (1993)

Facts

Elvis Washington (defendant) was charged with the distribution of cocaine. On the morning the trial was scheduled to start, the jury venire was in the courtroom with the district attorney, the court clerk, the court reporter, and the sheriff, and then joined by the assistant district attorney who would be trying the case. Washington, his counsel, and the trial judge were not present. Addressing the jurors, the clerk stated that “we appreciate your coming to jury service” (emphasis added throughout), that summoning a group of prospective jurors often pressured individuals to plead guilty to the charges or to lesser offenses, and that if that occurred, “we send you home without having to serve.” The clerk introduced the district attorney, who stated, “we’re glad to have you, and we do appreciate you,” the prospective jurors were “the backbone of our system,” he hoped it was “not too much of an inconvenience,” and any prospective juror who had genuine hardships should speak to the judge and “we appreciate it.” These remarks were transcribed by the court reporter. Washington’s counsel moved for a mistrial after jury selection, arguing that the district attorney’s ex parte communications with the prospective jurors improperly sought to gain favor with the venire and that the clerk’s comments improperly implied that all or many defendants are guilty. The trial court denied the motion. Washington was convicted after trial and appealed his conviction and sentence.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Marvin, C.J.)

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