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A Florida appeals court has tossed a murder conviction in part because the prosecutor repeatedly called the suspect a "crackhead." Jerry Crew, 57, was found guilty of second-degree murder for allegedly taking part in a 2011 robbery that ended with a 19-year-old being shot to death. The 5th District Court of Appeals overturned the conviction because of a number of errors and blasted the prosecutor, Ryan Will, for demeaning Crew in his closing argument.
"The State degraded (Crew) by repeatedly asserting 'there isn't a moralistic thing' about [him] and calling him a drug addict in various permutations like 'nothing more than a hopeless old crack addict,' a 'crackhead,' 'our favorite crackhead,' 'little beady crackhead eyes,' and 'crackhead little brain.' In summation, the prosecutor continued, 'This is a guy who committed a crime because he's a crackhead and he was going to get free crack out of it.'
"These are the vituperative or pejorative characterizations of a defendant that are clearly improper," the three-judge panel found. One of the appeals judges expressed amazement that the trial judge even let insults fly at the defense attorney. "This case reads like a primer on what not to do during closing arguments. The errors committed by the prosecutor are so numerous and so egregious, and the comments directed at opposing counsel are so unprofessional, I am amazed it was allowed to occur unchecked," she wrote.
Crew, who was sentenced to 30 years, can now apply for release, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. The prosecutor's office said it was reviewing the court's opinion.