Unless otherwise indicated, all indented material is copied directly from the court’s opinion.
Decisions of the Tennessee Supreme Court
Decisions of the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals
State v. Lueth, No. M2022-00206-CCA-R3-CD, p. 8 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Feb. 10, 2023).
The Defendant argues that the trial court’s comment during voir dire that an interpreter was being provided to the Defendant at trial “out of an abundance of caution” constituted an unconstitutional comment on the evidence. In Tennessee, a judge is constitutionally prohibited from commenting on the credibility of witnesses or the evidence in a case. See Tenn. Const. art. VI, § 9 (“Judges shall not charge juries with respect to matters of fact, but may state the testimony and declare the law”); see also U.S. Const. amend. V (“No person shall be . . . deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”); U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1 (“No State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”). A trial judge must be “very careful not to give the jury any impression as to his [or her] feelings or to make any statement which might reflect upon the weight or credibility of evidence or which might sway the jury.” State v. Suttles, 767 S.W.2d 403, 406-07 (Tenn. 1989). However, not every comment on the evidence made by a judge provides grounds for a new trial. State v. Hester, 324 S.W.3d 1, 89 (Tenn. 2010); Mercer v. Vanderbilt Univ., Inc., 134 S.W.3d 121, 134 (Tenn. 2004). This court must consider the trial court’s comments in the overall context of the case when determining whether the comments were prejudicial. Hester, 342 S.W.3d at 89; State v. Caughron, 855 S.W.2d 526, 536-37 (Tenn. 1993).
State v. Serghei, No. M2021-00776-CCA-R3-CD, p. 8 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. Sept. 15, 2022).
In State v. Young Bok Song, No. M2004-02885-CCA-R3-CD, 2005 WL 2978972, at *6 (Tenn. Crim. App. Nov. 4, 2005), this court noted that, “when reviewing the trial court’s decision not to appoint an interpreter, we must look at the information the trial court had to rely on in making its decision.”