Sunday, October 16, 2005

Argumentative summations. Samuel Yakobowicz was convicted on four counts of filing false federal excise tax returns on behalf of his company and one count of attempting to impede the administration of internal revenue laws. The district court allwed the parties to make short statements to the jury at the conclusion of every witness. Yakobowicz objected to this procedure on the ground that it was not authorized by the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure. The government used its "interim summations" to argue and reargue its theory of the case to the jury.

The Second Circuit held that, in the context of criminal proceedings, such interim argumentative summations favored the prosecution, constituting structural error that warranted reversal.

Judge Sotomayer dissented, stating that while the District Court erred by allowing such interim summations, such error was not structural, but was were trial error, subject to harmless error analysis. She felt that the error was harmless.

The decision in United States v. Yakobowicz can be found here.