Articles Posted in New York Court of Appeals

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The trial court’s introduction of DNA evidence through the testimony of a witness who had not performed, witness or supervised the generation of DNA profiles to prove an essential fact for a finding of guilt violated Defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. Defendant was charged with three burglaries and several related offenses in connection with two separate incidents in June 2009 and September 2009. During trial, a criminalist was permitted to testify, over Defendant’s hearsay objections, and without having conducted, witnessed or supervised the generation of the DNA profiles, that the DNA profile generated from Defendant’s buccal swab was a match to the DNA profile generated from evidence found at the crime scenes. The jury found Defendant guilty of two counts of burglary in the third degree and criminal mischief in the fourth degree relating to the June 2009 burglaries and acquitted Defendant of the counts relating to the September 2009 burglary. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the introduction of the hearsay DNA evidence through surrogate testimony to prove that Defendant was the perpetrator of the burglaries at issue violated Defendant’s right to confront the witnesses against him. View "People v. Austin" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of New York’s discretionary persistent felony offender sentencing scheme, holding that, in light of Alleyne v. United States, 570 U.S. __ (2013), this sentencing scheme does not violate Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000), nor does it violate Defendant’s due process and Sixth Amendment rights. Defendant argued New York’s persistent felony offender statute, N.Y. Penal Law 70.10(1)(a), increased the sentencing floor for persistent felony offenders. The Court of Appeals held that even if Defendant was correct in his characterization, the increase to the sentencing floor would not be the result of impermissible judicial fact-finding. The court further held that the statute falls squarely within the exception afforded by Almendarez-Torres v. United States, 523 U.S. 224 (1998), because it exposes defendants to an enhanced sentencing range based only on the existence of two prior felony convictions. View "People v. Prindle" on Justia Law

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An entity engaged in the bail bond business may not retain the premium paid on a criminal defendant’s behalf when bail is denied and the defendant is never released from custody. Arthur Bogoraz was indicted on state law fraud charges. Plaintiffs, Bogoraz’s wife and family friends, entered into an indemnity agreement with Ira Judelson, a licensed bail bond agent affiliated with the International Fidelity Insurance Agency, to secure Bogoraz’s release from custody in exchange for a premium of $120,560. The district court denied the bail bond after a hearing, however, and Bogoraz was never released from custody. Judelson refused to return the $120,560 to Plaintiffs. The district court found that the indemnity agreement permitted Judelson to retain the premium. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit certified a question of law regarding the issue to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals held that, under the Insurance Law, an entity engaged in the bail bond business does not earn a premium for a bail bond if a court refuses to accept the bond following a bail source hearing and the principal is not released on bail. View "Gevorkyan v. Judelson" on Justia Law

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In this criminal case, the People did not proffer a sufficient foundation at trial to authenticate a photograph that was obtained from an internet profile page allegedly belonging to Defendant to render the photograph admissible in evidence. After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of two counts of robbery. Over Defendant’s objection to the sufficiency of the proffered authentication, the trial court ruled that a photograph purportedly depicting Defendant holding a firearm and money would be admissible into evidence. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed the order of the Appellate Division and ordered a new trial, holding (1) the People failed to demonstrate that the photograph was a fair and accurate representation of that which it purported to depict and presented insufficient evidence to establish that the website belonged to, and was controlled by, Defendant; and (2) the error was not harmless. View "People v. Price" on Justia Law

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The sentencing court violated N.Y. Crim. Proc. Laws 390.50 and Defendant’s due process rights by failing adequately to set forth on the record the basis for its refusal to disclose to the defense certain statements that were considered by the court for sentencing purposes. Defendant pleaded guilty to charges of attempted murder in the second degree, assault in the first degree, and assault in the second degree. At sentencing, county court denied counsel’s request to turn over to counsel the victim impact letters that accompanied the presentence investigation report (PSI). The Appellate Division concluded that the sentencing court had not erred by denying disclosure of “confidential information.” The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the sentencing court failed to comply with its statutory obligation under section 390.50, thus implicating Defendant’s due process rights. View "People v. Minemier" on Justia Law

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Under the circumstances of this case, where a sworn juror repeatedly and unambiguously stated that she was unable to render an impartial verdict based solely on the evidence and the law, the trial court erred in failing to discharge the juror as “grossly unqualified to serve” pursuant to N.Y. Crim. Proc. Law 270.35(1). After a jury trial, Defendant was acquitted of murder in the second degree and convicted of manslaughter in the first degree. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed and ordered that Defendant receive a new trial, holding that the sworn juror at issue in this case, a juror who purportedly stated that she could not “do what the law require[d] [her] to do,” was incapable of rendering an impartial verdict as required by her oath as a sworn juror. Therefore, section 270.35(1) mandated her discharge. View "People v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was found guilty of first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child. The Appellate Division affirmed. Defendant appealed, arguing that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel due to counsel’s failure to object to the admission of evidence that the victim disclosed the abuse three years after it ceased and then again four years after her initial disclosure. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to demonstrate the absence of strategic or legitimate explanations for counsel’s failure to object to the evidence at issue. View "People v. Honghirun" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the trial court erred in admitting into evidence a contempt order issued in a civil proceeding involving the same funds Defendant was criminally charged with stealing. Supreme Court granted the People permission to introduce the contempt order as Molineux evidence. The Court of Appeals concluded that the contempt order did not constitute Molineux evidence but that the Appellate Division correctly concluded that the contempt order was relevant to prove Defendant’s larcenous intent. Further, the probative value of the contempt order was not substantially outweighed by the danger of undue prejudice to Defendant, and therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion as a matter of law by admitting the contempt order into evidence. View "People v. Frumusa" on Justia Law

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Under the circumstances of this case, where an alleged instructional defect was actually a typographical error, Supreme Court did not abuse its discretion in resettling the transcript without a hearing. Defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. On appeal, Defendant argued that he was denied a fair trial because Supreme Court provided a supplemental jury instruction that described intentional murder as an unintentional crime, thereby relieving the People of the burden of establishing a crucial element of the charge. Thereafter, the People, believing that the defect in the instruction was the result of a typographical error, asked the court reporter to consult her notes. The reporter advised the People that the two relevant instances of the word “unintentional” should instead have been transcribed as “intentional." The reporter then prepared a certified corrected transcript. Supreme Court then ruled that the record would be resettled in accordance with the correct transcript without a reconstruction hearing. The Appellate Division upheld the judgment of Supreme Court. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that Supreme Court did not act outside its discretion to resettle the transcript without a hearing. View "People v. Bethune" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of intentional murder in the second degree and two counts of criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in declining to give an adverse inference charge where law enforcement collected video surveillance footage of the crime scene but the evidence was lost prior to trial. The Appellate Division affirmed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding (1) under the circumstances of this case, the trial court erred in failing to give an adverse inference jury instruction; but (2) given the strength of the People’s case, the error was harmless. View "People v. Viruet" on Justia Law