'Guilty' label in powerpoint wins new trial for Las Vegas man

CARSON CITY — A Las Vegas man convicted of stealing a car and multiple other charges during a 2011 crime spree will get a new trial because his booking photo with the word “guilty” imposed on it was allowed as part of a PowerPoint exhibit at his trial.

The Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed the conviction of Frankie Watters, saying the use of the slide in the presentation during opening arguments violated his right to a fair trial.

“The booking photo slide sequence declared Watters guilty before the first witness was called and should not have been allowed,” wrote Chief Justice Kris Pickering.

PowerPoint slides can be used by a prosecutor to support an opening statement so long as the slides do not put inadmissible evidence or improper argument before the jury, she said in the unanimous decision by the full court.

In this case, Clark County District Judge David Barker allowed the slide despite objections by the defense.

On appeal, the Clark County District Attorney’s office argued that the use of the slide was harmless error because the PowerPoint presentation was not admitted into evidence. Watters’ guilt was also overwhelming, the office said.

“But the state has not shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the booking photo slide sequence did not affect the jury’s determination of Watters’ guilt,” Pickering said. “This requires that we reverse and remand this case for a new trial.”


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