Appeal from Hillsborough County.
The issue to be decided is whether it was proper for the prosecutor to comment in his argument to the jury upon the failure of the defendant to call his wife, who was present at the trial, as a witness to support his testimony that he was with her at the time of the alleged crime. Defendant was found guilty of participating in a robbery which occurred at approximately three o'clock in the afternoon of June 1, 1968, at Zayre's, a department store in Manchester. His exceptions, among others, to that part of the argument of the State and to the charge of the Trial Court (Johnson, J.) in regard thereto were reserved and transferred.
Employees of the store identified the defendant at trial as being one of the hold-up men. To counter this evidence, defendant testified that at the time of the robbery in Manchester he was at home in Lowell, Massachusetts with his sick wife. Though she was in court throughout the trial, defendant's wife was never called as a witness by either party.
In his final argument the county attorney reviewed the testimony of the witnesses for both sides as well as the other evidence adduced. In commenting on the defendant's case, he stated, "And then we have Mrs. Kelly who sits here and has unenlightened us for her own reasons, whatever they are, as to the whereabouts of Mr. Kelly at three o'clock that afternoon." Defendant maintained that this was improper argument and moved for a mistrial, which motion was denied.
Clearly a criminal defendant is not obliged to call any witnesses or put in any evidence. United States v. Interstate Eng'r Corp.,288 F. Supp. 402
(D.N.H. 1967). The fact that an accused does not choose to testify in his own defense can provide no basis for an adverse inference or comment by the prosecutor. State v. Richard,109 N.H. 322
, 251 A.2d 326 (1969); State v. Fowler,110 N.H. 110
, 261 A.2d 429 (1970). Usually if a witness equally available to both sides is not called to testify to facts peculiarly within her knowledge, no inference can be drawn that her testimony would have ...