Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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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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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of attempted assault in the third degree, assault in the third degree, and other offenses. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in admitting a phone call between Defendant and his ex-girlfriend as an adoptive admission. The Appellate Division concluded that the trial court properly exercised its discretion in admitting the call. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) because the People satisfied the threshold evidentiary requirements for admissibility, the trial court properly placed the call before the jury; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendant’s request to redact portions of the call; and (3) that the call was recorded while Defendant was incarcerated does not change the analysis. View "People v. Vining" on Justia Law
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Defendant pled guilty to one count of hindering prosecution in the second degree. After Defendant’s codefendant was acquitted of the underlying felony, and prior to Defendant’s sentencing, Defendant moved to withdraw his plea. The trial court denied the motion and sentenced Defendant in accordance with the plea agreement. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court neither abused its discretion in denying Defendant’s motion to withdraw his plea nor erred in rejecting Defendant’s attempt to relitigate his guilt, as Defendant’s arguments that his plea was constitutionally infirm and that the codefendant’s acquittal of the underlying felony rendered him innocent were without merit. View "People v. Fisher" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of three counts of predatory sexual conduct and three counts of criminal sexual act in the first degree. Defendant was sentenced to twenty-five years’ imprisonment followed by twenty years’ post-release supervision on each of the three counts of criminal sexual act and on each corresponding count of predatory sexual assault. The sentence for the criminal sexual acts was to run concurrently to the sentence for the corresponding predatory sexual assault, with the three pairs of sentences to run consecutively to each other. The Appellate Division affirmed the sentences. Defendant appealed, arguing that his aggregate sentence of seventy-five years violates the Eighth Amendment and N.Y. Const. art. I, 5. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to preserve for review his claim that his sentence was cruel and unusual. View "People v. Pena" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of conspiracy in the sixth degree and two counts of official misconduct. On appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed Defendant’s convictions. The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division in all respects, holding (1) the jury could have rationally concluded that there was legally sufficient evidence to convict Defendant of official misconduct under a theory of malfeasance; (2) the jury could have rationally concluded that the elements of official misconduct by nonfeasance were established; and (3) there was legally sufficient evidence to support Defendant’s conspiracy conviction. View "People v. Flanagan" on Justia Law
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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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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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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