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United States v. Young
United States Supreme Court
470 U.S. 1 (1985)
Young (defendant) was the president of a petroleum company under contract to deliver crude oil to another company. Part of the oil Young supplied was not actually crude oil, but less valuable fuel oil blended with condensate from natural gas wellheads. The discovery that Young was not delivering crude oil led to an FBI investigation, the issuance of multiple federal charges against Young, and a jury trial in the federal district court. During closing arguments, Young’s attorney made comments to the jury suggesting that the prosecution did not actually believe that Young intended to commit fraud. The prosecution did not object to defense counsel’s statements. On rebuttal, the prosecutor suggested that Young’s attorney had elicited his personal opinion about Young’s guilt and informed the jury of his own opinions about Young’s guilt and the veracity of witness testimony. Young’s attorney did not object to the prosecution’s rebuttal statements. Young was found guilty on several counts and appealed on grounds that he had been unfairly prejudiced by the prosecution’s closing remarks. The court of appeals held that the prosecution’s rebuttal statements constituted plain error sufficient to merit a new trial. The United States (plaintiff) petitioned the Supreme Court for review.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Burger, C.J.)
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