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Prosecutor's "Golden Rule" and victim impact arguments required reversal of murder conviction.


In People v. Vance  (Cal.App. 1 Dist.) the prosecutor in a murder trial committed prosecutorial misconduct by making an improper "Golden Rule" argument inviting the jury to put itself in the victim's position, as well as improper victim impact arguments about the effect of the crime on the victim's family, and casting aspersions on defense counsel for objecting.

The prosecutor asked the jury to "walk" in the victim's shoes and to "literally relive in your mind's eye and in your feelings" what the victim experienced on the night he was killed in order to "get a sense of what he went through," and the prosecutor went beyond the evidence in narrating the victim's feelings and thoughts as he lost consciousness.

Although the trial court sustained some of the defense objections to the argument, the trial court's failure to take further action to curb the misconduct, such as by admonishing the jury, resulted in prejudicial error requiring reversal. The only contested issue was the defendant's intent, and the evidence that he had the requisite intent for first degree murder was not overwhelming.

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