A rare appellate victory

Lara Montecalvo, Chief of the Public Defender’s Appellate Division, secured a reversal of a first degree murder conviction in State v. Arciliares.  In an opinion written by Justice Flaherty and issued on January 26, 2015, the Court held that Justice Krause erred by preventing defense counsel,  Judith Crowell, from cross-examining a detective about statements he made to Mr. Arciliares during an interview.   Importantly, the state’s case rested largely on the testimony of a jailhouse informant who testified that Mr. Arciliares had confessed to the murder.   The Court agreed that the detective’s testimony could have shown that Mr. Arciliares had learned the details of the murder from the interview, rather than from being the murderer, and that preventing the defense from eliciting that testimony “was prejudicial error because it undercut Arciliares’s  strongest defense.”  Justice Goldberg wrote separately to caution prosecutors and trial courts about the “potential for reversible error when the state seeks to exclude defense witnesses or limit evidence sought to be introduced by criminal defendants.”