CRIMINAL LAW – Improper argument, directed verdict: James Darnell Graves v. Commonwealth of Kentucky (SC 6/25/2009)

James Darnell Graves v. Commonwealth of Kentucky
2008-SC-000580-MR June 25, 2009
Opinion by Justice Noble. All sitting; all concur.

Graves appealed his burglary conviction claiming he was entitled to a mistrial because during voir dire the prosecutor improperly bolstered a prosecution witness by referring to him as “a neutral individual.” The Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the mistrial, and noted that defense counsel did not request an admonition to the jury after his objection was sustained and also agreed to allow the Commonwealth to cure the error by emphasizing to the panel that the jury had the duty to determine credibility and motive. The Court also rejected Graves’ argument that he was entitled to a directed verdict on the possession of burglary tools charge since there was not even a scintilla of evidence to support a conviction (Sawhill). The Court noted that the elements of the offense are possession of the tool under circumstances which leave no reasonable doubt of the person’s knowledge or intent. Further the Court held that since Graves had been apprehended near the scene of the robbery in possession of stolen goods and a screwdriver, and since numerous parts of the premises had been pried open, sufficient evidence existed for the question to go to the jury.

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