The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
From State v. Rivera (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Oct. 10, 2014), the opinion that just keeps on giving (see the posts immediately before and after this one):
In addition, the PowerPoint the prosecutor used in summations included statements about the law of self-defense that were so oversimplified as to be misleading. Worse, those oversimplifications provided appealingly easy "take aways," as those schooled in PowerPoint presentations aptly put it.
The first four of the five final slides of the PowerPoint used in summation were as follows: the first, a definition of attempted murder with "GUILTY" superimposed in typeface that obscures the words; the second, a slide with a caption asserting "CANNOT BRING A KNIFE TO A FIST FIGHT" and with text purportedly reciting the law on the use of deadly force that is largely obscured by superimposed text in a red box that advises "NO SELF-DEFENSE TO USE DEADLY FORCE"; the third, a slide with a caption asserting "CANNOT KILL AS FIRST CHOICE," with text largely obscured by superimposed text in a red box that repeats "NO SELF-DEFENSE TO USE DEADLY FORCE"; and a slide with boxes of text that cannot be read because they are obscured by one superimposed word – "GUILTY" – in typeface that is large enough to essentially fill the slide.
Without question, the oversimplifications were prejudicial to a claim of self-defense by a defendant who claimed to have taken his work knife from his pocket to defend against what he claimed he thought was an imminent and life-threatening attack by the Burns brothers….
We recognize that the judge instructed the jury on law and gave an appropriate instruction directing that what he said about the law was controlling. In addition, the judge directed the jurors to rely on their recollection of the evidence, not the summations of counsel. But the sheer quantity and variety of highly prejudicial remarks, visual displays and a courtroom antic [see the opinion for more details -EV], give us reason to have serious doubt about the jurors' capacity to follow those instructions.