The Washington State Supreme Court has overturned four felony convictions of a Pierce County man, saying a deputy prosecutor violated the defendant’s right to a fair trial by superimposing the words, “guilty, guilty, guilty,” over the man’s photo during a PowerPoint presentation in closing arguments.
The state’s high court, on a 5-4 vote, sent Edward Michael Glasmann’s case back to Superior Court for a new trial.
“The prosecutor’s misconduct was flagrant, ill intentioned and we cannot conclude with any confidence that it did not have an effect on the outcome of the trial,” Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote for the majority in an opinion released Thursday.
Prosecutor Mark Lindquist said he thought the majority made a bad call.
“The majority opinion is correct in recognizing that prosecutors are quasi-judicial figures,” he said. “We have a duty to seek justice and be fully professional. The opinion takes a strange turn, though, in finding reversible misconduct because a former deputy prosecutor superimposed the word ‘guilty’ on a PowerPoint slide with a booking photo.
“This was unnecessarily melodramatic, but did not affect the outcome.”
Lindquist said he welcomed a retrial.
“The evidence was overwhelming, and I’m confident we can successfully retry the case,” he said.
Prosecutors in 2004 charged Glasmann with first-degree assault, attempted first-degree robbery, first-degree kidnapping and obstructing a law enforcement officer. They alleged Glasmann, now 47, went on a drug-and-alcohol-fueled rampage during which he assaulted and kidnapped his girlfriend in Lakewood.
A jury in 2006 convicted Glasmann of second-degree assault, attempted second-degree robbery, obstructing a police officer and kidnapping. He was sentenced to 16 years, six months in prison.
His attorneys argued deputy prosecutor John Hillman, now with the state Attorney General’s Office, violated their client’s rights by repeatedly showing a jail booking photo of Glasmann during closing arguments accompanied by text meant to undermine the defendant’s veracity and suggest he was guilty.
“A prosecutor could never shout in closing argument that ‘Glasmann is guilty, guilty, guilty!’ and it would be highly prejudicial to do so,” Madsen wrote. “Doing this visually through use of slides showing Glasmann’s battered face and superimposing red capital letters (red, the color of blood and the color used to denote losses) is even more prejudicial.”
Glasmann was hurt while tussling with police, and his booking photo showed him beat-up and unkempt. His attorney did not object to the use of slides.
Justice Tom Chambers concurred but wrote a separate opinion.
“There was absolutely no need for the prosecutor to alter an exhibit to demonize the defendant,” Chambers wrote. “Turning Glasmann’s photo into a poster one might expect to see on the wall of an Old West saloon was completely unnecessary …”
Justice Charles Wiggins wrote the dissent.
He agreed Hillman “improperly expressed a personal opinion about Edward Glasmann’s guilt” but said he would have only overturned the defendant’s second-degree assault conviction, letting the other three stand.
The evidence was so overwhelming on the other counts that Hillman’s PowerPoint likely played no part in the jury’s decision to convict Glasmann of those crimes, Wiggins wrote.
The second-degree assault conviction was more nuanced, the justice said, and Hillman’s improper closing argument might have been enough to swing the jury toward conviction on that count.