Articles Posted in New York Court of Appeals

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The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division affirming the trial court’s decision to admit a statement, heard in the background of a 911 call and spoken by an unidentified person, under the excited utterance exception to the hearsay rule, holding that the admission of the statement was error, and the error was not harmless. During Defendant’s retrial, the trial court allowed admission of the statement at issue as an excited utterance. Defendant was convicted of one count of assault in the first degree and other crimes. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) the law-of-the-case doctrine prevented the substitute Supreme Court Justice from revisiting the prior justice’s decision to exclude the statement; and (2) the admission of the statement was in error because there was no evidence to infer that the statement was based on the personal observation of the declarant. The Appellate Division rejected both arguments. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the substitute justice was not bound by law of the case; but (2) it was not reasonably inferable from the circumstances that the unidentified speaker personally observed the shooting upon which Defendant’s convictions were based. View "People v. Cummings" on Justia Law

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The “place of business” exception to N.Y. Penal Law 265.03(3) narrowly encompasses a person’s “place of business,” when such person is a merchant, storekeeper, or principal operator of a like establishment. Defendant was working as a swing manager at a McDonald’s restaurant when a gun in the pockets of his pants fired, causing an injury to the lower part of his right leg. Defendant was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, in violation of N.Y. Penal Law 265.03. Defendant moved to dismiss the indictment, arguing that the “place of business” exception to section 265.03(3) applied because he possessed the firearm at his workplace. Supreme Court denied the motion and convicted Defendant. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that because Defendant was not the principal operator of the McDonald’s when he possessed the loaded firearm in the establishment, the “place of business” exception to section 265.03(3) was inapplicable. View "People v. Wallace" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the trial court abused its discretion in this criminal case when it chose not to conduct an inquiry of two sworn jurors pursuant to People v. Buford, 69 N.Y.2d 290 (1987). The trial court elicited sworn testimony from a courtroom spectator regarding her allegation that she overhead the two jurors refer to Defendant by a derogatory term. Based on the testimony provided, the trial judge concluded that a Buford inquiry was not required. The Appellate Division opined that the trial court made no findings, express or implied, including as to the spectator’s credibility but nonetheless concluded that the court should have granted Defendant’s request to make an inquiry of the jurors. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding (1) the Appellate Division erred by opining as to what remedy was warranted in response to the content of the spectator’s allegation without determining whether the allegation was credible in the first instance; and (2) on the record, the trial court made an implied credibility finding that the spectator was not worthy of belief, and therefore, a Buford inquiry was not warranted. View "People v. Kuzdzal" on Justia Law

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A statute that criminalizes the making of a tangible reproduction or representation of secret scientific material by electronically copying or recording applies to the acts of a defendant who uploads proprietary source code to a computer server. Defendant compressed, uploaded, and downloaded Goldman Sachs’s high frequency trading source code. A jury found Defendant guilty of unlawful use of secret scientific material. Supreme Court set aside the jury’s verdict, concluding that the source code was not a “tangible reproduction or representation” of the source code within the meaning of N.Y. Penal Law 165.07. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that Defendant made a “tangible reproduction or representation” of the source code when he uploaded the code to the hard drive of a computer server. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) there was legally sufficient evidence that Defendant created a tangible copy of the source code on the computer server in violation of section 165.07; and (2) there was legally sufficient evidence that Defendant had the necessary mens rea of “intent to appropriate…the use of secret scientific material.” View "People v. Aleynikov" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Criminal Court properly suppressed Defendant’s breathalyzer test results on the grounds that Defendant’s consent, given in response to “inappropriate warnings,” was involuntary. Criminal Court suppressed both Defendant’s initial refusal to take the breathalyzer test and the test results, ruling (1) because the refusal occurred more than two hours after arrest, under People v. Atkins, 85 N.Y.2d 1007, 1008 (1995), the People must show that consent was express and voluntary; and (2) the People failed to demonstrate that Defendant’s consent was voluntary and not the result of coercive conduct by the officer because Defendant consented only after the officer gave the improper warnings. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the test results were properly suppressed because the breathalyzer test was not administered in accordance with the requirements of N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law 1194 and Defendant’s consent to take the test was not voluntary, as required by Adkins. View "People v. Odum" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals involving Appellants’ convictions for identity theft, the Court of Appeals held (1) the law defines the use of personal identifying information of another as one of the express means by which a defendant assumes that person’s identity; and (2) therefore, the People may establish that a defendant “assumes the identity of another” within the meaning of New York’s identity theft statute, by proof that the defendant used another’s personal identifying information, such as that person’s name, bank account, or credit card number. Accordingly, the Court rejected Appellants’ arguments that the People bear the burden of establishing independently both a defendant’s use of protected information and assumptive conduct. View "People v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed Defendant’s convictions for criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree, aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree, and a related offense, holding that Defendant’s arguments on appeal were not consistent with the controlling law. On appeal, Defendant argued (1) he was denied his constitutional right of self-representation when the trial court denied his request to proceed pro se with “standby counsel” without making any further inquiry; and (2) he was deprived of a fair trial when the trial court precluded his proffered psychiatric testimony for failure to serve notice on the People. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) a trial court has the discretion to conduct further colloquy where a defendant does not unequivocally request to proceed without counsel but instead prefers to proceed with the assistance of counsel; and (2) the trial court did not err in precluding Defendant’s unnoticed psychiatric evidence because there was no justification for the surprise, and to allow it would contradict the statutory purpose behind the notice requirement. View "People v. Silburn" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division ruling that Teri W.’s ten-year probation sentence was legal. Teri W. pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse in the first degree, a class D felony sex offense, for an offense she committed when she was seventeen years old. Supreme Court deemed her conviction vacated and replaced by a youthful offender finding and sentenced her to ten years’ probation. On appeal, Teri W. argued that her probation sentence illegally exceeded the five-year maximum for undesignated class E felonies. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the sentence was lawful. View "People v. Teri W." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the Appellate Division ruling that Teri W.’s ten-year probation sentence was legal. Teri W. pleaded guilty to one count of sexual abuse in the first degree, a class D felony sex offense, for an offense she committed when she was seventeen years old. Supreme Court deemed her conviction vacated and replaced by a youthful offender finding and sentenced her to ten years’ probation. On appeal, Teri W. argued that her probation sentence illegally exceeded the five-year maximum for undesignated class E felonies. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the sentence was lawful. View "People v. Teri W." on Justia Law

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The lengthy delay between Defendant’s arrest in this case and his eventual guilty plea violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial. Defendant was charged in an indictment with murder in the second degree and other crimes. The time between Defendant’s arrest and his eventual guilty plea spanned six years, three months, and twenty-five days. Defendant spent the entirety of that period incarcerated. On appeal, the Appellate Division held that Defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial was not violated. The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division and dismissed the indictment, holding that, after evaluating all the relevant factors set forth in People v. Taranovich, 37 N.Y.2d 442 (1975), under the circumstances of this case, Defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated. View "People v. Wiggins" on Justia Law