Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Rights

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Defendant was arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) and other offenses. The jury convicted Defendant of two counts of DWI. Appellate Term reversed and remitted for a new trial on those counts, concluding that Defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights were violated because the police officer who testified at trial regarding Defendant’s breath test did not personally administer the test, although he did directly observe the test. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that no Confrontation Clause occurred under the facts of this case because the officer testified based on his own observations and inclusions, rather than as a surrogate for his partner, who administered the test, and none of the nontestifying officer’s hearsay statements were admitted against Defendant. View "People v. Lin" 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 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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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

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Defendant was arrested after striking a marked New York City police vehicle. After he was arrested, Defendant consented to a breathalyzer test, which resulted in a reading below the 0.08 minimum required for a per se violation. Defendant was not given a physical coordination test on the basis of a language barrier. Defendant was subsequently charged with driving while impaired and driving while intoxicated. Criminal Court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss, concluding that the New York Police Department (NYPD) violated Defendant’s constitutional rights by failing to offer a physical coordination test on the basis of a language barrier. The Appellate Term reversed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the NYPD policy withstands rational basis review, Defendant’s equal protection claim must be rejected; and (2) given the substantial State interests involved, Defendant’s due process claim must be rejected. View "People v. Aviles" on Justia Law

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Respondent was riding his bicycle against the flow of traffic on a one-way street when officers stopped him. Respondent told the officers he was sixteen years old. The police arrested Respondent and transported him to the precinct, where Respondent told law enforcement that he was only fifteen years old. Thereafter, the officers placed Respondent in a juvenile room and instructed him to remove his belt, shoelaces, and shoes as a protective measure. A revolver was recovered from one of the shoes. The presentment agency filed a juvenile delinquency petition charging Respondent with various weapon possession counts. Respondent filed a motion to suppress. Family Court denied the motion, concluding that the police had probable cause to arrest Respondent for disorderly conduct and that the seizure of the gun was legal because the officers were justified in having Respondent remove his shoes as part of protocol to ensure a detainee’s safety. The Appellate Division reversed, concluding that the search that uncovered the weapon from Respondent’s shoe was unreasonable. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the officers’ initial arrest of Respondent was lawful where the officers believed he was sixteen years old at the time; and (2) the subsequent search of Respondent’s shoes was reasonable. View "In re Jamal S." on Justia Law

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A hearing officer found Petitioner, a prison inmate, guilty of violating two prison disciplinary rules and imposed penalty of twelve months’ punitive confinement in a special housing unit. The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision affirmed. Petitioner commenced this N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 proceeding challenging the determination. Supreme Court dismissed the petition, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the lower courts erred in dismissing Petitioner’s article 78 petition because a violation of Petitioner’s right to call witnesses occurred at the administrative hearing where the hearing officer failed to undertake a meaningful inquiry into a requested witness’s allegation that the witness had been coerced into refusing to testify. View "Cortorreal v. Annucci" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. The county court sentenced Defendant, as a second felony offender, to concurrent terms of eight years’ imprisonment and three years of postrelease supervision. On appeal, Defendant argued that the county court erred in failing to hold a Darden hearing, as the information provided by a confidential informant (CI) was insufficient to establish probable cause to support a search warrant for his apartment. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that a Darden hearing was unnecessary because reasonable cause for the search existed independently of the statements by the CI to the police. View "People v. Crooks" on Justia Law

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Defendant was indicted on charges of identity theft in the first degree, criminal possession of stolen property in the fourth degree, and theft of services. At several court appearances, the People requested adjournments. Defendant moved to dismiss the indictment based on a violation of his statutory speedy trial rights. Supreme Court denied the motion. More than sixteen months after commencement of the criminal action, Defendant was convicted as charged. The Appellate Division modified the judgment by dismissing the identity theft count but otherwise affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Defendant was entitled to dismissal of the indictment on speedy trial grounds, as (1) Defendant did not consent to additional delay attributable to court congestion, and (2) the People failed to announce readiness within the statutory time period. View "People v. Barden" on Justia Law