State v. Damon William

On January 19, 2021, the Supreme Court of New Jersey held that Mr. William was denied a fair trial.  The Court reversed an appellate division decision, vacated Mr. William ‘s conviction, and remanded for a new trial.  Vacating a conviction means that the conviction was dismissed, remanded for a new trial means that the case is returned to a lower court to be retried.  A prosecutor’s prejudicial arguments led to this ruling.  A prejudicial error means an error that causes substantial harm to the defendant.

Mr. Williams was accused of robbing a Bank of America branch, by passing a note to a teller requesting money from her drawer.  His action were not physically violent.   An important trial distinction was the use of a threat of bodily injury.  If a such a threat happened, the crime would be a robbery.  Otherwise, it would be a theft.

The state had a trial theme of “Actions speak louder than words.”  The prosecutor showed a PowerPoint slide to the Jury.  It was a picture from the movie the Shining, Jack Nicholson had an axe and said,  “Here’s Johnny.” The caption was “ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.” The prosecutor analogized this slide to the defendant’s actions, stating that the words themselves weren’t threatening, “it’s not just the words; it’s what you do before and what you do after the words that matters.”

A closing argument is a summation of the case.  A criminal attorney can discuss the evidence, and inferences.  The slide had not been admitted into evidence, and was only presented for the first time at closing.  An attorney cannot present new evidence during the closing, which had not already been accepted into evidence by the judge.  References to images or other things not in evidence during a closing is improper. The question becomes whether the reference is so improper as to have created an unfair trial or not.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey held that the PowerPoint slide and the prosecutor’s comments denied Mr. William of a fair trial.  He did not commit any violent action.  The prosecutor’s use of the slide and comments made it more likely that the jury would find a robbery (theft with threat of violence) conviction rather than a theft conviction.

The decision is quite important to preserve criminal defendants’ rights.  The sixth amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that criminal defendants get a fair trial.  The Constitution is the highest law in the United States.  This decision enforces the amendment, which is vital to maintaining our constitutional principles.  In addition, this decision enforces that prosecutors must act and speak fairly during trials rather than try to enflame the emotions of the jurors.

If you or a loved one are charged with a crime, it is essential you hire a criminal defense lawyer who stays on top of the law and knows how to challenge the evidence, prosecutorial misconduct and judicial errors that will affect the outcome of your case. At the Law Office of Eric M. Mark, monitor new caselaw every day to make sure we don’t miss any decision that may be helpful to our clients’ defenses.


The Law Office of Eric M. Mark may be reached at:

201 Washington St.

Newark, NJ 07102



Jersey City, NJ – by appointment only


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *