Back in 2011, Frankie Alan Watters was convicted for possessing a stolen car, grand larceny auto and the failure to stop for an officer. In November, he was granted a new trial following a ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court that the jury in his trial may have been tainted by a PowerPoint slide. The slide showed Watters’s face battered with the word “GUILTY” superimposed.
The ruling reverses the previous convictions. Watters has been serving time in Ely State Prison.
Watters argued that he did not steal the cars in question, but rather happened to match the suspect’s description that the police had. The state of Nevada was unable to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the slide had no affect of the jury’s decision that Watters was guilty.
Watters had been accused of stealing a car, wrecking that car, stealing another car, having a high speed car chase with police and running into a store. He was arrested at the store after a police dog bit him multiple times.
Attorneys for Watters had protested after they saw the slideshow that the prosecution was preparing to use during the opening statement. However, the judge ruled that the PowerPoint was fine, and it was used in court. One of the slides had a booking photo of Watters, with an animation that then stamped “GUILTY” on his face in all capital letters. While this slide was on display, the prosecution asked the jury to find the defendant guilty of all charges.
The attorney for Watters said that the slide upset their client. On the other hand, the Clark County District Attorney’s Office said that the slide was completely harmless and was not admitted as evidence. The DA also argued that the evidence that Watters was guilty was overwhelming.
The Nevada Supreme Court opinion, which was written by Justice Kristina Pickering, noted that by using the graphic to convey that message, the prosecution was allowed to cross a line that would not have been allowed to be crossed if it were verbal in declaring the defendant guilty. In addition, the option notes that the visual slide could have persuaded the jury more than oral arguments could have on their own.