“We Will Show that the Defendant is a Con Artist”

I don’t know what to say. This was supposed to be Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Smith’s opening statement — a time not for argument but for describing what the evidence is expected to show.

The accused is not charged with being a con artist. Rather, he’s charged with possession of cocaine, at issue is whether he knew that he possessed a controlled substance, and he didn’t try to con anybody into believing that he didn’t know.

So why would Mr. Smith, prosecuting a drug case, argue to the jury in a drug case that the accused is a “con artist”? It has nothing to do with the facts of the case; might it have something to do with the nationality of the accused?

Might the prosecutor be trying to stir the jury’s prejudice by equating the accused (a Nigerian citizen) with the Nigerian con artists who fill our inboxes with offers of easy money?

Is that right? Appealing to the jury’s biases and prejudices that way?

Since the jury is entirely white and hispanic, you might even call it an appeal to racism; if Mr. Smith were a white man, you might wonder whether he shared the racism that he was trying to foment in the jury.

Do you wonder the same thing of a Black man?

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0 responses to ““We Will Show that the Defendant is a Con Artist””

  1. I am personally highly offended. It has recently been brought to my attention that I had a vast number of relatives in Nigeria, all of whom have since died and left me huge inheritances that are unfortunately tied up in some geopolitical game being played by the local government and various banks.

    This AUSA is messing with my peeps, and I do not appreciate his disparaging insinuations. Nigerians Unite!

  2. If “con artist” was the best theme the prosecutor could think of, maybe your case is better than you think!


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