There is an important decision out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit where the conviction of Laval Farmer was overturned due to the prosecutors’ repeated use of his nickname “murder.” After all, his nickname is not “Attempted Murder” Farmer, which is what he was tried for. My only regret is that he was not represented by Richard “Racehorse” Haynes so that the prosecutors could have told the jury not to let “a race horse clear murder.”
Reversals due to prosecutorial statements in trial are relatively rare. In this case, the court found the “gratuitous” references robbed Farmer of a fair trial.
The court notes that the prosecutors seemed intent on using the name for prejudicial purposes:
Farmer’s nickname, which would be problematical and suggestive in any case involving violent crime, posed a heightened risk of prejudice because the crimes charged included murder and attempted murder. Farmer objected to the use of his nickname in the indictment, and he offered to concede identification to avoid its use at trial. But the government declined Farmer’s offer, and the district court admitted the name. Thereafter, the prosecution used the nickname promptly, repeatedly, and in ways calculated to intensify the prejudice.
However, the court still ruled that the evidence could compensate for such prejudice on the murder portion of the case but not the attempted murder claim:
In this case, the prosecutors, in their addresses to the jury, invited prejudice by repeatedly emphasizing Farmer’s nickname in a manner designed to suggest that he was known by his associates as a murderer and that he acted in accordance with that propensity in carrying out the actscharged in the indictment. This abuse of Farmer’s nickname entitles Farmer to a new trial for the attempted murder of Patterson and the related firearms offenses. However, we affirm Farmer’s convictions for murdering Jose White, discharging a firearm during that offense, and conspiring to assault, because the evidence so overwhelmingly established his guilt respecting those offenses as to nullify any prejudice resulting from the inappropriate argument to the jury.
The court was critical of Eastern District of New York Judge Thomas Platt, who “did nothing” to curb the abuses by the prosecutors in his trial. The result is that Farmer will be retried for the 2002 attempted murder of fellow Bloods member Jacquel Patterson in Wilkes Barre, Pa. as well as some weapons offenses. However, he will not get a new trial in the 2001 murder of 14-year-old Jose Angel White in Roosevelt, Long Island.
He is now serving life. He is a member of the Velt Gangsta Lanes (VGL) Bloods,here. White was killed for being mistaken for a member of another gang.
Let this be a lesson to all felons. Like Machine Gun Kelly, “Murder” picked an unhelpful trial nickname. While Nelson took “Baby Face,” you might try “Angel” or Gentle Guy” if you want to think ahead.
For the opinion, click here.
For the full story, click here.