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High Court Agrees to Hear Inmate's PCRA Appeal Over Being Called 'a Liar'

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of a defendant convicted on drug charges who claimed his counsel should have objected when the prosecutor called him "a liar" during closing arguments. The justices granted allocatur in Commonwealth v. Childs on Dec. 6, agreeing to review the state Superior Court's ruling that defendant Cosil Louis Childs' argument was meritless. According to the Supreme Court order, the argument will focus on the question of whether the  PCRA court was "in error for dismissing [petitioner’s] petition for post-conviction relief averring that trial counsel was ineffective for failing to object to remarks of the assistant district attorney during her closing argument wherein she repeatedly called [petitioner] a liar." Childs' attorney, Media-based Scott Galloway, did not return a call seeking comment. John Francis Reilly of the Delaware County District Attorney's Office declined to comment on the court's decision to grant the appeal. Childs has asked for a new trial. On May 24, the Superior Court issued its ruling upholding the findings of the PCRA judge. In that opinion, written by Judge Victor Stabile, Childs was charged with attempting to obtain opioid painkillers with a false prescription, a felony. He was convicted in April 2013 and sentenced to five-to-10 years in prison. He claimed in his appeal that repeatedly being called a liar by the prosecutor amounted to prosecutorial misconduct that went unopposed by his lawyer, damaging his case. According to Stabile, the prosecutor told jurors: "'I ask you, again, ladies and gentlemen, please do not reward the defendant for getting up on the stand and lying to [you], because that’s what he did. He completely lied. He was jittery. He kept moving all over the place. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you the defendant is a liar. He lied to you and do not reward him for doing such.'" The Superior Court found no error in the PCRA judge's ruling and Stabile said, "The crux of the trial was credibility. As the court explained, defense counsel challenged the credibility of the prosecution witnesses in his closing argument while contending appellant testified 'truthfully.'" Stabile pointed to another passage of the PCRA judge's decision, which read, "'A prosecutor is allowed to respond to defense arguments with logical force and vigor. Here, the prosecutor’s comments represented fair response to [appellant’s] contentions. The defense in the case sub judice was based upon the theory that he was telling the truth and all of the other witnesses at trial were lying. Therefore, the prosecutor’s comments represented a fair response to [appellant’s] arguments.'"