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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Aug 22, 2014

Court: TN Supreme Court

Attorneys 1:

Valerie T. Corder, (on appeal and at trial), and Arthur Quinn (at trial), Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Noura Jackson.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; William E. Young, Solicitor General; J. Ross Dyer, Senior Counsel; William L. Gibbons, District Attorney General; and Amy P. Weirich and Stephen P. Jones, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): CLARK

The defendant was charged with the June 2005 first degree premeditated murder of her mother. The jury convicted her of second degree murder after a trial in which the evidence was entirely circumstantial. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed her conviction and sentence, although the judges on the Panel were not unanimous as to the rationale for the decision. We granted the defendant’s application for permission to appeal. We hold that the lead prosecutor’s remark during final closing argument at trial amounted to a constitutionally impermissible comment upon the defendant’s exercise of her state and federal constitutional right to remain silent and not testify. We also hold that the prosecution violated the defendant’s constitutional right to due process by failing to turn over until after trial the third statement a key witness gave to law enforcement officers investigating the murder. The State has failed to establish that these constitutional errors were harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, we vacate the defendant’s conviction and sentence and remand for a new trial.