Case Summaries – Fourth Department Decisions Released on February 5, 2016

Published on February 22, 2016 2:20 pm by Piotr Banasiak in Appeals Blog

Criminal Case Summaries:

  • People v Graves (KA 12-01265) – 4AD reverses D’s convictions for various sex crimes, because the lower court erred when it instructed the jury that it could convict D based on theories that were not charged in the indictment or bill of particulars. 4AD first notes that although D did not preserve his arguments, they are reviewable even absent objection, because a defendant has a fundamental, nonwaivable right to be tried only on those crimes and theories charged in an accusatory instrument. 4AD further notes that harmless error does not apply because it is impossible to know whether the jury convicted D of the charged or uncharged theories.
  • People v Porter (KA 11-00289) – 4AD reverses D’s convictions, finding that the lower court should have suppressed the statements he made because they were the fruit of an unlawful detention, and that D was also deprived of a fair trial as a result of prosecutorial misconduct. D was the passenger in a vehicle police stopped for a Vehicle & Traffic Law violation. After police arrested the driver, D asked if he could leave, and police told him he could not until they finished conducting an inventory search of the car. During the search, D twice stated that there was a rifle in the car, which the police found. 4AD concludes that D was unlawfully detained by police once the justification for the traffic stop ended upon the driver’s arrest, and his statements were the tainted fruit of that unlawful detention. As such, they should have been suppressed. 4AD further concludes that the prosecutor engaged in misconduct when, during questioning of the driver, he made statements that injected his own personal opinion as to the truthfulness of the witness’s testimony. In addition, on summation, the prosecutor improperly denigrated the defense, improperly commented on witness credibility, and made statements that attempted to shift the burden of proof to the defense.

Family Law Case Summaries:

  • Matter of Isobella A. (CAF 15-01546) – 4AD affirms three separate orders of the Family Court—two custody/visitation orders, and one order finding that the mother neglected her two children. 4AD finds that the neglect adjudication was supported by evidence that the mother alienated her children from their fathers and interfered with visitation. The mother also made false allegations against the fathers or their significant others, and videotaped one of the subject children while forcing him to state lies about his father. As a result of the mother’s conduct, the children’s mental health and emotional condition were impaired. 4AD further finds that the orders granting custody of the subject children to each respective father were supported by a sound and substantial basis in the record.