Court: Prosecutor Shouldn't Have Shown Jury Shining Image

Photo from horror movie helped NJ prosecutors secure robbery conviction
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 21, 2021 11:44 AM CST
Man Gets New Trial Because Prosecutors Used Shining Photo
In this photo, Jack Nicholson portrays Jack Torrance in a scene from the movie "The Shining."   (AP Photo/Warner Bros. file)

(Newser) – New Jersey man Damon Williams didn't brandish an ax, stick his face through a door, or say "Heeere's Damon" when he stole $4,600 from a bank in 2014, and his lawyers say it was unfair for prosecutors to liken him to Jack Nicholson's character in the famous scene from The Shining. New Jersey's Supreme Court granted Williams a new trial this week after deciding it was improper for prosecutors to have used a photo of the scene in Williams' first trial, the New York Times reports. In the 2014 crime, Williams handed a note saying "Please, all the money, 100, 50, 20, 10. Thank you." Prosecutors said they used the horror movie photo to demonstrate that "actions speak louder than words."

"This guy looks creepy and he's saying some very unthreatening words, 'Here's Johnny,'" the prosecutor said during closing arguments in Williams' trial, per NJ.com. "But if you have ever seen the movie The Shining, you know how his face gets through that door." Williams was convicted of second-degree robbery, which requires the use of force or threats of force, and received a 14-year sentence, the AP reports. His lawyers argued he was guilty only of third-degree theft, which carries a lesser sentence. "The use of a sensational and provocative image in service of such a comparison, even when purportedly metaphorical, heightens the risk of an improper prejudicial effect on the jury," Justice Lee Solomon wrote in the opinion vacating Williams' sentence. (A bank robber in Texas blamed COVID-19 for the crime.)

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