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Mass. court cites ‘thugs’ comment, OK’s new trial

May 14, 2013

BOSTON (AP) — A man convicted of pointing a loaded gun at a state trooper won a new trial on Tuesday when the state’s highest court ruled that the prosecutor should not have referred to him and his friends as “street thugs” in his closing argument.

The Supreme Judicial Court said the prosecutor’s use of “street thugs” and his reference to the defense as a “sham” was improper and may have prejudiced the jury.

Joshua Lewis was convicted of assault with intent to murder and several firearm charges after he was accused of pointing a gun at a state trooper during a traffic stop in Stoughton in 2006.

The Supreme Judicial Court threw out the convictions and ordered a new trial after finding that an assistant district attorney had improperly disparaged Lewis and his lawyer.

“The prosecutor’s improper comments were extensive and provided the structure and thrust of his entire closing argument,” Justice Francis Spina wrote for the court. “Stated otherwise, this is not a case in which a fleeting, isolated, improper statement in an otherwise proper argument could, in the context of the entire closing argument, be deemed nonprejudicial.”

The Norfolk district attorney’s office conceded that the prosecutor’s derogatory language during his closing amounted to excessive argument. Office spokesman David Traub said the prosecutor has since retired.

The state Appeals Court had ruled that the error did not warrant a new trial.

Lewis has completed his four- to six-year sentence.

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