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Luke Newman, P.A. Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney
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Golden Rule Argument Focus Of Murder Appeal Case


The golden rule is “do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” In criminal proceedings, prosecutors who ask the jury to put themselves in the position of the victim are violating a procedural rule that unreasonably biases juries against defendants. For this reason, a man convicted of the heinous rape and murder of a female child is appealing the decision on the basis that the prosecution suggested that the jury, in an unlawful manner, place themselves in the position of the dying girl.  This argument was made as the prosecution recounted the horrendous details of their murder. In this article, we’ll discuss why this is a problem.

 What happened? 

The general principle behind the golden rule prohibition is that it short circuits your ability to rationally decide matters. For instance, if a prosecutor asks you to imagine being stuffed into a suitcase after being sexually assaulted, then you’re not going to consider matters rationally. In this case, after applying a golden rule argument, the jury returned a unanimous verdict to execute the defendant.

It’s unclear whether a ruling in favor of the defendant would vacate his conviction and require a new trial or it would simply vacate the death sentence imposed by the jury. The golden rule argument was made during closing arguments. Normally, the defendant’s attorney would have to raise an objection immediately and move for a mistrial to preserve their right to argue the matter on appeal.

Is this really applied to cases? 

It comes up on appeal, so lawyers are cautioned to not make golden rule arguments while prosecuting defendants or acting as plaintiff’s counsel. In those cases, the prosecutor may have their conviction overturned on appeal or a personal injury attorney would be stuck arguing in the appeals court for years before the court imposed the verdict. In other words, there’s no real benefit to using a golden rule argument.

That being said, defense counsel, be they civil defense or criminal defense, must raise the objection and get a ruling at the time of the argument to ensure that the matter can be raised on appeal.

Did the prosecutor violate the golden rule? 

The matter is now being decided by the Florida Supreme Court which is expressing consternation over the wording of the prosecutor’s argument because it is an apparent violation of the golden rule. On the other hand, appellate counsel for the state argues that the prosecutor’s wording may have brushed up against a violation, but it didn’t surpass the legal requirements necessary for a reversal.

Anyway, a jury that is adjudicating the guilt of a defendant must not focus on the victim’s suffering as much as they focus on whether or not the defendant committed the crime he or she is accused of. They are not tasked with deciding how much a victim suffered but rather whether or not the defendant is guilty of causing the victim’s suffering, and that ultimately is why the golden rule argument is prohibited.

Talk to a Tallahassee Criminal Appeals Attorney Today 

Tallahassee criminal attorney Luke Newman, P.A. can help you appeal a criminal conviction on the grounds of prosecutorial overreach. Call today to discuss the matter in more detail and learn more about how we can help.


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