Case Summaries – Fourth Department Decisions Released on April 29, 2016
Criminal Case Summaries:
- People v Encarnacion (KA 14-01242) – In this Sex Offender Registration Act matter, 4AD reverses the order finding D to be a sexually violent offender. The lower court erred by holding a SORA hearing in D’s absence. A person has a due process right to be present at a SORA hearing, and here, the lower court erred by holding a hearing without verifying whether D received notice of the hearing and his right to be present.
- People v Gomez (KA 05-02660) – 4AD reverses D’s conviction and orders a new trial. 4AD previously affirmed the conviction, but then granted a motion for a writ of error coram nobis, and now considers the appeal de novo. 4AD first finds that reversal is required because the lower court failed to make any findings on the record to support its decision that D needed to wear a stun belt during trial. 4AD notes that harmless error analysis does not apply to this issue. 4AD secondly finds that reversal is also required because there is no indication in the record that the lower court notified counsel of the contents of a jury note. 4AD notes that preservation of this issue is not required, and that the presumption of regularity does not apply to this sort of error.
- People v Hall (KA 14-01407) – 4AD reserves decision and remits the case for a hearing on D’s motion to withdraw his plea based on ineffective assistance of counsel. D wrote the court a letter in which he stated that counsel forced him to accept the plea by telling him that he would receive a sentence of more than 20 years if he were convicted after trial. Defense counsel then filed a motion arguing that the plea was coerced, and at sentencing told the court that he informed D that he would receive consecutive sentences on each count if convicted after trial. 4AD finds that the lower court erred by denying the motion without a hearing, because there was a legitimate question as to the voluntariness of the plea. Defense counsel’s statements as to the certainty of consecutive sentences were, at least in part, erroneous. 4AD concludes that a hearing is necessary to determine whether D would have pled guilty even if counsel had advised him correctly.
- People v Jackson (KA 13-01086) – 4AD reverses the lower court’s order, which denied D’s CPL 440 motion without a hearing. D argued that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel because his attorney, and the attorney representing the codefendant, were members of the same law firm. The codefendant was a key witness against D at trial. Under such circumstances, members of the same law firm may not represent codefendants unless the trial court conducts an inquiry to ensure that the defendant is aware of the facts and has made a reasoned decision to proceed with counsel. Here, D submitted sufficient evidence to warrant a hearing on whether the two attorneys were members of the same law firm, and 4AD concludes that the lower court erred by denying the motion without a hearing.
- People v Rivers (KA 13-02198) – 4AD reverses D’s conviction for assault and weapons possession, finding that the lower court erred when, in response to a jury note, it read back the prosecutor’s summation to the jury without also reading back the defense summation. 4AD explains that by reading back only the prosecutor’s summation, the court gave the People another opportunity to present their arguments and view of the evidence to the jury. This created the possibility that the jury would be distracted from their own recollection of the facts and the arguments of defense counsel. 4AD also notes that reversal is appropriate because the evidence against D was not overwhelming.
Family Law Case Summaries:
- Matter of Dominic B. (CAF 15-00142) – In this article 10 matter, 4AD reverses the lower court’s order finding that the mother had neglected her child. 4AD finds that the lower court denied the mother her right to due process by relying on a psychological evaluation that was not received in evidence, and which the parties stipulated would not be received in evidence. The lower court further denied the mother due process when it failed to give her an opportunity to cross examine a key witness.
- Matter of Timothy B. (CAF 14-02052) – In this article 10 matter, 4AD affirms the lower court’s order finding that the father had neglected the subject children. 4AD first concludes that the out-of-court statements made by each child were adequately cross-corroborated by statements the children made to CPS caseworkers, and were also corroborated by the admissions the father made to a caseworker and the father’s fact-finding hearing testimony. 4AD next concludes that the proof showed that the father neglected the children by chronically misusing alcohol. The evidence showed that the father was driving while intoxicated at 2 p.m. on a Monday afternoon and was involved in a car accident; the father was mean and aggressive when he drank alcohol; and the eldest child would have to care for the younger children when the parents became intoxicated.