Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Friday, May 27, 2011

Duke v. Allen: Not Commenting on Defendant's Failure to Tesify

In Duke v. Allen, No. 09-16011 (May 26, 2011) (2-1), the Court affirmed the denial of habeas relief to an Alabama inmate.

During the prosecution’s closing argument, defense counsel objected to an apparent reference to the defendant’s failure to testify, and asked the trial court to note that the prosecutor was pointing at the defendant when he made the statement. The trial court, however, did not so note. The Court found that defense counsel therefore failed to preserve a record adequate to allow a reviewing court to review the claimed gesture by the prosecutor. Moreover, the “he” whom the prosecutor may have been commenting on might not have been the defendant, but the blood of a victim. [In dissent, Judge Wilson argued that “he” referred to the defendant, and the prosecution was therefore improperly commenting on the defendant’s failure to testify.]