Case Summaries – Fourth Department decisions released on June 19, 2015 and in July
Criminal Case Summaries:
- People v Brewer (KA 10-02418) – 4AD rejects D’s argument that the trial court improperly admitted evidence pertaining to his use of crack cocaine and the peculiar manner in which he and his former girlfriend engaged in oral sex. D was convicted of predatory sexual assault against a child, among other things. 4AD finds that the evidence regarding consensual oral sex did not constitute Molineux evidence, because it was neither a crime nor a prior bad act. 4AD also notes that the evidence was not admitted in order to show defendant’s bad character or criminal propensity; it instead corroborated details of the victim’s testimony. With respect to the evidence pertaining to D’s drug use, 4AD finds that it was not overly prejudicial because this was not a drug case.
- People v Walker (KA 12-00100) – 4AD reverses D’s conviction, finding that the lower court should have suppressed the post-Miranda statements D made to police. Police found D and another person smoking marijuana in a car. D exited the car and consented to a search, and police found a gun in the glove box. While D was handcuffed and an officer was walking him to a patrol vehicle, an officer asked D who the gun belonged to. D responded it was his. Ten minutes later, while D was in the patrol vehicle, an officer advised him of his Miranda rights, and D again provided an inculpatory statement. The lower court suppressed the first statement, but not the second one that D made in the car. 4AD finds that this was error because the statements were made during a continuous chain of events, and there was not a definite, pronounced break between the illegally obtained statement, and the post-Miranda statement. 4AD explains that the first statement was inculpatory and directly related to the crime, and the second statement was given less than 10 minutes later and in the same location. Thus, when D made the second statement, he was still under the influence of the initial illegal questioning.
- Matter of Bd. Of Examiners of Sex Offenders v D’Agostino (KA 14-02271) – In this SORA matter, 4AD reverses the lower court’s order, which found that D’s conviction of a sex offense in a Cambodian Court was not a registerable offense under SORA. More specifically, the lower court found that D’s conviction was not registerable because he was denied due process during the proceedings in Cambodia, since the complainant recanted his accusation at trial, and the conviction was based solely on a police officer’s hearsay testimony. 4AD finds that the Cambodian proceeding comported with due process. Although the complainant recanted his accusation, he admitted making the accusation, and there was evidence in the record that D bribed the complainant and his family in order to prevent him from testifying against D. The record also undermined the complainant’s claim that he was threatened by police into making the accusation. 4AD further finds that there is evidence in the record that corroborates and renders reliable the hearsay testimony provided by the police officer.
- People v Mitchum (KA 11-00202) – 4AD reverses D’s conviction because the lower court erred in denying his for-cause challenge to a prospective juror. The juror made statements regarding police officer credibility that cast doubt on his ability to render an impartial verdict. The lower court did not obtain unequivocal assurances of the juror’s ability to be fair and impartial.
- People v Priest (KA 14-00994) – 4AD reverses D’s conviction, following a guilty plea, of course of sexual conduct against a child in the first degree, because the waiver of indictment and superior court information were invalid. Because D was charged with a class A felony, he could not waive indictment under CPL 195.10 (1) (b). 4AD thus vacates D’s plea and dismisses the superior court information.
- People v Ashkar (KA 15-00008) – 4AD reduces D’s sentence for first-degree criminal possession of stolen property to 5 to 15 years. 4AD notes in particular that this was D’s first criminal conviction and the crime did not involve any violence or threats thereof.
- People v Cruz (KA 11-02526) – 4AD modifies D’s conviction of third-degree grand larceny by reducing it to petit larceny. 4AD finds that the evidence did not establish that the value of the stolen property, four puppies, exceeded $3,000. 4AD explains that the victim, who testified at trial, was not a dog expert, and offered only speculative statements as to the value of the puppies.