Justia New York Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal 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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In each of these three appeals, Defendants moved to dismiss the accusatory instrument on speedy trial grounds, asserting that the People’s off-calendar statements of readiness were illusory because the People were not, in fact, ready for trial at the next court appearance. At issue before the Court of Appeals was whether, in the event of a change in the People’s readiness status, the People or the defendant have the burden of showing that a previously filed off-calendar statement of readiness is illusory. The Supreme Court held (1) the People’s previously off-calendar statement of readiness if presumed truthful and accurate; and (2) a defendant can rebut this presumption by demonstrating that the People were not, in fact, ready at the time the statement was filed. View "People v. Brown" on Justia Law
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Defendant was identified as a suspect in several gunpoint robberies and was included in lineup identification procedures. Defendant moved to suppress the identification procedures, arguing that the lineups were unduly suggestive. Supreme Court granted the motion with respect to two victims but denied it with respect to the other two victims. After a trial, the jury convicted Defendant of the counts with respect to two victims. The Appellate Division affirmed. At issue in this case was whether the lineups were unduly suggestive because Defendant had a different hairstyle than some or all of the fillers. The Court of Appeals reversed and granted Defendant’s motion to suppress the line-up identifications, concluding that there was no record support for the lower courts’ denial of suppression for the latter two victims, as a witness’s failure to mention a distinctive feature in his or her initial description is not necessarily the determinative factor in assessing a lineup’s suggestivity, and therefore, both lineups should have been suppressed. View "People v. Perkins" 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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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of three counts of attempted robbery and one count of robbery, among other offenses. The trial court directed the sentence for each attempted robbery count was to run consecutively to the remaining sentences. Defendant subsequently entered an Alford plea to first-degree murder. The Appellate Division modified the judgment of conviction by directing the sentences imposed on the counts of attempted robbery to run concurrently with each other and consecutively to the sentence imposed on the completed robbery, and otherwise affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s consecutive sentences for robbery and attempted robbery, as modified by the Appellate Division, were lawful; (2) Defendant received effective assistance of counsel; and (3) Defendant’s Alford plea to attempted murder was knowing, intelligent and voluntary. View "People v. Couser" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of murder in the first degree and one count each of burglary in the first degree and robbery in the first degree. The Appellate Division modified by reversing Defendant’s convictions for murder in the second degree, concluding that the People failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that it was reasonably foreseeable that Defendant’s act of unlawfully entering the victim’s apartment and assaulting him would cause the victim’s death by cardiovascular disease. The Court of Appeals modified the order of the Appellate Division, holding there was legally sufficient evidence to support the jury’s findings that the victim’s heart failure, induced by the extreme stress and trauma of Defendant’s violent assault, was a directly foreseeable consequence of Defendant’s conduct. View "People v. Davis" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of charges relating to his sexual abuse of two minor girls. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by allowing the People to elicit evidence of Defendant’s use of crack cocaine while engaging in sexual acts with consenting adult women, which corroborated the testimony of the two minor victims. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting evidence of the distinctive manner in which Defendant’s engaged in sexual acts with consenting adult women. View "People v. Brewer" on Justia Law
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Defendant was charged with multiple criminal accounts stemming from the deaths of two people after Defendant drove the wrong way on an interstate while operating his car under the influence. The court found Defendant guilty of two counts of manslaughter in the second degree and vehicular manslaughter in the first degree, among other offenses. The Appellate Division affirmed. Defendant later filed a motion seeking to vacate the judgment of the conviction on the ground that his attorney provided ineffective assistance because counsel mistakenly believed that Defendant’s potential sentences on each count were statutorily required to run consecutively and that no plea offer was conveyed to him as a result of his counsel’s erroneous advice. County Court denied Defendant’s motion. The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) Defendant’s attorney incorrectly advised Defendant that he was subject to mandatory consecutive sentences, but there was no possibility that a reduced plea would have been offered to Defendant; and (2) as to Defendant’s direct appeal, his claim that defense counsel should have put on a different expert to testify as to Defendant’s mental health was without merit. View "People v. Bank" on Justia Law
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Prior to Defendant’s criminal trial, he moved to suppress a spontaneous postdetention statement to the police. The trial court denied the motion. After Defendant’s direct testimony, the court granted the prosecutor’s application to impeach Defendant on cross-examination with the omissions from his initial statement to the police. The jury ultimately convicted Defendant of robbery in the first degree and two counts of robbery in the second degree. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, under the circumstances, it was not error to allow the People to use Defendant’s selective silence, while making his spontaneous postdetention statement, to impeach his trial testimony. View "People v. Chery" on Justia Law
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