No Error Found In Denying Defendant's Request To Show Scar To Jury At Close Range, CCA Says.

No Error Found In Denying Defendant's Request To Show Scar To Jury At Close Range, CCA Says.

In this appeal to the CCA Napolean Meredit asks whether the trial court erred in failing to allow the appellant to be viewed from a close distance by the jury and in doing so whether that error forced him to relinquish his Fifth Amendment right not to testify. The Court found no error on appeal.

This was a robbery trial and identity was an issue.  At trial, defense counsel asked that Meredit be allowed to stand “a foot or two” in front of the jury so they could see that he had a distinctive scar on his forehead which was never mentioned by the victims, calling their identification of Meredit as the perpetrator into question. After the trial court denied the request, counselasked that the jury be allowed to come to the front table to see Meredit. When that request was also denied, counsel asked that the Meredit’s face be displayed on a projection screen for the jury. The court refused, stating that the court did not possess the necessary equipment. Finally, counsel asked that the photographs he took of Meredit the previous afternoon be admitted but stated that he might have to testify in order to get the photographs admitted as an exhibit. The court advised that Meredit could put on the desired proof in other ways, such as by standing “in the well”; by having a witness, such as a friend or family member, testify regarding the scar; or by having Meredit testify about his scar. Meredit ultimately chose to testify. On appeal, Meredit argues that the trial court erred by refusing to allow him to get close to the jury, thereby infringing upon his right to present a defense, and that the error forced him to relinquish his right not to testify, violating his Fifth Amendment rights.

In upholding the trial Court's decision, the court followed existing precedent:  “[t]he determination to allow the display of body parts and physical traits to the jury is within the sound discretion of the trial court.” State v. David Lee Richards, No. 03C01-9207-CR-230, 1993 WL 80536, at *3 (Tenn. Crim.
App. at Knoxville, Mar. 23, 1993). 

No Fifth Amendment protections are implicated here where Meredit felt compelled to testify by a previous court ruling. His choice was still free and voluntary.

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