The prosecutor in the case of Tremaine Wilbourn made a bold move during her rebuttal argument on Tuesday, bringing the proceedings to a screeching halt and drawing a complaint from the defense. Wilbourn already was convicted of murdering police officer Sean Bolton, and is facing a penalty phase to determine whether or not he will get the death penalty.
While addressing the court, Assistant District Attorney Alanda Dwyer walked right next to Wilbourn, pointed at him, and said, “Look at him, ladies and gentlemen. Look at the face of somebody that is filled with hatred! This is the face of a coward.”
The defense immediately objected and asked to approach the bench. Wilbourn started lobbing some strong words of his own at Dwyer, calling her a racist before opting to leave the courtroom.
Statements like this attacking the character of a defendant during closing arguments can sometimes result in reversible error, and the defense moved for a mistrial. Fortunately for Dwyer, Judge Lee Coffee said no, referencing Wilbourn’s own behavior during the trial prior to this incident, and saying that Dwyer “was 100% within her bounds” and did not incite him. He said that Tennessee law allows attorneys to use “colorful and forceful language.”
Not only that, Judge Coffee barred Wilbourn from returning to the courtroom. He did instruct the jury to ignore anything Wilbourn said, noting that his absence from the courtroom was his own decision, and the jury should not hold that against him.
[Image via Law & Crime Network screengrab]