Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of manslaughter in the first degree. Defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court erred by precluding defense counsel from questioning prospective jurors during voir dire as to their ability to follow and apply the law regarding the use of involuntary statements at trial. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that, under the circumstances of this case, the trial court abused its discretion in prohibiting defense counsel from questioning prospective jurors with respect to their views on involuntary confessions. View "People v. Miller" on Justia Law
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Defendant, a dark-complexioned African-American male, was charged with one count of robbery in the first degree and two counts of robbery in the second decree. During voir dire, the prosecutor used a peremptory strike to exclude a dark-complexioned Indian-American woman. Defendant challenged the prosecutor’s use of peremptory strikes to exclude dark-colored women. The courts below held that Defendant failed to make a prima facie showing of discrimination regarding the prosecutor’s use of peremptory strikes. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) skin color of a prospective juror is a cognizable classification to challenge a prosecutor’s use of peremptory strikes under Batson v. Kentucky; and (2) because defense counsel met her prima facie burden by alleging that the prosecutor was excluding dark-colored prospective female jurors, and the prosecutor did not give a non-discriminatory reason for excluding the dark-complexioned Indian-American woman, the trial court committed reversible error by not seating the juror. View "People v. Bridgeforth" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of coercion in the first degree. The Appellate Division affirmed. Defendant appealed, arguing (1) the court, rather than the jury, made a factual determination regarding the seriousness of his conduct when it declined to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of coercion in the second degree in violation of the rule set out in Apprendi v. New Jersey; and (2) the trial court erred in declining to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of coercion in the second degree. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s first argument on appeal was unpreserved for appellate review; (2) the facts of this case did not warrant the lesser included charge; and (3) the trial court did not violate Defendant’s constitutional right to represent himself by ruling that he forfeited his right to proceed pro se during pre-trial proceedings. View "People v. Finkelstein" on Justia Law
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Decedent, the wife of Plaintiff, was walking on a rural road when she was struck and killed by a vehicle driven by one of the Jamison defendants. Plaintiff brought this negligence action against the Jamison defendants and Drumm Family Farm, Inc., alleging that, at the time of the collision, Decedent was assisting a calf owned by the Farm that was loose on the roadway. The Farm moved for summary judgment, arguing that its alleged negligence in allowing the calf to escape or failing to retrieve it did not constitute a proximate cause of Decedent’s death. Supreme Court denied the Farm’s motion. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the Farm’s negligence merely furnished the occasion for, but did not cause, Decedent to enter the roadway, where she was struck by the Jamison vehicle. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Farm failed to meet its burden of demonstrating the absence of material issues of fact, and proximate cause was a question for the factfinder. View "Hain v. Jamison" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of second-degree burglary and robbery. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by admitting subscriber information in prepaid cell phone records as nonhearsay evidence located within a business record. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that the subscriber information did not constitute assertions of fact but was properly admitted as circumstantial evidence of Defendant’s identity as the purchaser of the phone. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the lower court properly determined that the subscriber information was properly admitted for a limited, nonhearsay purpose and was not introduced for the truth of the matters asserted herein. View "People v. Patterson" on Justia Law
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Petitioner’s son was hit by a car while attempting to cross an intersection. Petitioner timely served notices of claim on the State, town, and county. Five months after the statutory period for serving a notice of claim had expired, Petitioner served a notice of claim on the School District, alleging that the School District’s sign at the corner of the intersection where Petitioner’s son was struck obstructed the view of pedestrians and drivers and created a dangerous and hazardous condition. Petitioner simultaneously filed an order to show cause for leave to serve a late notice of claim, arguing that he had a reasonable excuse for the late notice. Supreme Court determined that Petitioner should not be permitted to serve the late notice of claim. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the lower courts abused their discretion as a matter of law when, in the absence of any record evidence to support such determination, the courts determined that the School District would be substantially prejudiced in its defense by a late notice of claim; and (2) the lower court improperly placed the burden of proving substantial prejudice solely on Petitioner. View "Newcomb v. Middle Country Central School District" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Defendant was sentenced as a persistent violent felony offender to twenty years to life in prison. The Appellate Division vacated Defendant’s sentence and remitted for sentencing because the sentencing court improperly considered as a basis for sentencing a crime that was dismissed for lack of legally sufficient evidence. At resentencing, Supreme Court again sentenced Defendant to an indeterminate term of twenty years to life. Defendant appealed, arguing that the court again improperly considered the dismissed counts and that his counsel had been ineffective for failing to object to the court’s failure to impose a lesser sentence than it originally imposed. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the sentencing court’s reimposition of an identical sentence did not indicate that it relied on improper criteria; and (2) defense counsel’s failure to challenge Defendant’s resentencing did not render his performance constitutionally deficient. View "People v. Flowers" on Justia Law

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Anthony Turturro was attempting to cross Gerritsen Avenue in Brooklyn on his bicycle when he was struck by a vehicle driven by Louis Pascarella. A police investigation determined that Pascarella was traveling at a speed of at least fifty-four miles per hour before the collision. Plaintiffs bought this negligence action against, inter alia, the City of New York and Pascarella. The jury returned a verdict finding that Anthony, Pascarella, and the City were negligent. The jury apportioned ten percent of the liability to Anthony, fifty percent to Pascarella, and forty percent to the City. The City moved to set aside the verdict, arguing that it was entitled to qualified immunity and that it was acting in a governmental capacity when it failed to conduct an adequate study of whether traffic calming measures should be implemented after it received numerous complaints of speeding on Gerritsen Avenue. Supreme Court denied the City’s motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) the City was acting in a proprietary capacity regarding the safety of Gerritsen Avenue; and (2) there was a rational process by which the jury could have concluded that the City’s negligence was a proximate cause of the accident and that the doctrine of qualified immunity did not apply. View "Turturro v. City of New York" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree and assault in the second degree. The Appellate Division affirmed, concluding, as relevant to this appeal, that defense counsel was not ineffective for either failing to advance a justification defense that would have been inconsistent with Defendant’s theory of misidentification or for failing to object to a courtroom closure given the law at the time. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that counsel was not ineffective for pursuant a misidentification defense at Defendant’s behest rather than offering a defense of justification, and counsel adequately protected Defendant’s right to a public trial. View "People v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Defendant was charged with murder in the second degree and other crimes. On the second day of deliberations, the jury sent out a note stating that it was deadlocked. The trial court proceeded by repeating its final instruction concerning the jury’s duty to deliberate. Two hours later, the jury announced that it had come to a verdict. The jury found Defendant not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon. It was not a unanimous verdict. The trial judge refused to accept the verdict and ordered that jurors resume deliberations in an attempt to reach a unanimous verdict. After further deliberations, the jury reached the same verdict, only this time, polling was unanimous. The Appellate Division affirmed. Defendant appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the trial court’s supplemental instruction in response to the defective verdict was coercive. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances, the trial court’s instructions were not coercive and, accordingly, did not deprive Defendant of a fair trial; and (2) Defendant’s remaining allegations of error were without merit. View "People v. Morgan" on Justia Law