Jaron Nabors

Full title: THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. JOSE ANTONIO MEREL AND MICHAEL WILLIAM MAGIDSON, Defendants and Appellants.

Court: California Court of Appeals, First District, Fourth Division

Date published: May 12, 2009

Facts

The outline of this case can be stated briefly. The defendants and some friends met the victim, whom they knew as Lida, who appeared to be a young woman and became friendly with her. Both defendants had sexual encounters with her. Upon discovering that Lida was a biological male, the defendants and two of their friends, Jaron Chase Nabors and Jason Cazares, assaulted and killed her. Lida, whose legal name was Edward Araujo, was 17 years old when she died. She had dressed and presented herself as a female since she was 14 years old, and was also known by the name Gwen

Issue

Court Judgment

Magidson’s conviction was based on improper vouching, as the district court found that the prosecutor implied in seeking the death penalty that the commonwealth possessed stronger evidence of the defendant’s guilt and statutory aggravators than had been presented to the jury. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with this finding, stating that the argument did not meet these criteria.

Magidson’s final contention is that the prosecutor committed misconduct in commenting about Magidson’s counsel during the closing argument. In his closing argument, Magidson’s attorney told the jury that he had had the privilege and honor to know Mike Magidson and to represent him for almost three years. The prosecutor countered that personal opinions were irrelevant and that Magidson’s counsel was a good man who represented the guy.

The Supreme Court has explained that it is misconduct for the prosecutor in an argument to impugn the integrity of defense counsel or suggest defense counsel has fabricated a defense. To preserve for appeal a claim of prosecutorial misconduct, the defense must make a timely objection at trial and request an admonition. Magidson made an objection to the first portion of the challenged argument, and the trial court admonished the jury that opinions were not relevant.

To the extent the admonition was insufficient to respond to the later portion of the argument, Magidson has waived his claim. This decision upholds the principle that a prosecutor’s conduct violates the federal Constitution when it constitutes a pattern of conduct so egregious that it infects the trial with such unfairness as to make the conviction a denial of due process.

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