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Document Viewer NJ high court overturns conviction over 'Shining' reference
Source: AP - AP Wire Service
Jan 19 16:50

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ The New Jersey Supreme court has overturned a man's bank robbery conviction because of a prosecutor's reference to a classic horror movie.

During closing arguments in the case against Damon Williams, the prosecutor showed jurors a photo from the movie ``The Shining'' depicting a character played by Jack Nicholson telling his terrified wife and son, ``Here's Johnny!'' moments after breaking through a door with an axe.

The reference was meant to illustrate that actions can speak louder than words, and to support the prosecutor's contention that Williams should be convicted of a more serious offense even though no threatening words were spoken to the bank teller in Camden County in 2014.

The jury convicted Williams of second-degree robbery, which requires the use of force or the threat of force, rather than the less serious crime of third-degree theft. Prosecutors argued that Williams' conduct before and after passing a note to the teller supported the more serious charge. Williams is currently serving a 14-year term.

A unanimous Supreme Court disagreed Tuesday, writing that prosecutors ``must walk a fine line'' when comparing a defendant with ``an individual whom the jury associates with violence or guilt.''

``The use of a sensational and provocative image in service of such a comparison, even when purportedly metaphorical, heightens the risk of an improper prejudicial effect on the jury,'' Justice Lee Solomon wrote. ``Such a risk was borne out here.``

The Camden County prosecutor's office, which tried the case, declined to comment on the ruling Tuesday.

AP-WF-01-19-21 2150GMT

Received Id AP121019B79D59E0 on Jan 20 2021 19:45