Stats & Case Summaries – Fourth Department Decisions Released on November 14, 2014
Criminal Case Summaries:
- People v Boyde (KA 13-00991) – 4AD reverses D’s conviction because his guilty plea was improperly coerced by the lower court. Although the issue was not preserved by way of a motion to withdraw the plea, 4AD reaches the error in the interest of justice. The lower court coerced the plea by telling D that it would impose the maximum permissible sentence if D went to trial and were convicted. 4AD explains that the statement did not constitute a mere description of the potential sentencing range.
- People v Chadick (KA 11-00971) – 4AD reverses D’s conviction because the lower court erred in striking, sua sponte, all of the codefendant’s testimony after the codefendant invoked his privilege against self-incrimination. 4AD explains that the trial court failed to consider any “less drastic alternatives” before resorting to striking the entirety of the testimony.
- People v Enright (KA 14-00432) – In this appeal by the People, 4AD reverses the lower court’s order suppressing the results of a chemical test of D’s blood. D did not move to suppress the results of the test within 45 days of his arraignment as required by CPL 255.20. 4AD rules that the lower court abused its discretion by entertaining the motion because D did not establish that there was good cause for an extension of time. 4AD also finds that D was in a position to file a timely motion based on information provided by the People in their discovery packet.
- People v Fuqua (KA 11-00970) – 4AD reverses D’s murder conviction because the trial court erred in denying a missing witness charge. The eyewitness testified at the grand jury that he saw D shoot the victim with a gun that D brought to the crime scene. The eyewitness later told the prosecutor that he was the one who brought the gun to the scene. The prosecutor in turn revoked a cooperation agreement that had been offered, and informed the trial court that the witness was unavailable because he would invoke his privilege against self-incrimination. 4AD finds that the prosecutor’s statement to the trial court was insufficient to establish that the eyewitness was unavailable. The prosecutor did not call the witness to the stand, nor did the trial court receive verification from the witness’s attorney that the witness would invoke the privilege. “The People’s ‘bare allegation that the witness in question “apparently” would assert [his] Fifth Amendment privilege, in light of the attendant circumstances, did not render the witness unavailable.’ ”
- People v Hartle (KA 08-01053) – 4AD rejects D’s argument that the trial court erred in permitting a medical professional to testify about statements D made to her while being examined at a hospital. A police officer was present in the examination room when D made the statements. D argued the statements were subject to the physician-patient privilege, because he was in custody and was unable to tell the officer to leave the room. 4AD finds that D failed to establish that the statements were intended to be confidential, as required to render the privilege applicable. D knew the officer was present and did not ask to speak privately with the medical professional. 4AD also notes that D made the same statements to other persons, both before and after he made them to the medical professional.
- People v Knapp (KA 12-01870) – 4AD reverses D’s conviction, finding that the lower court should have suppressed the statements he made to police, because he did not validly waive his Miranda rights, and the statements were involuntary. D is an intellectually handicapped man with an IQ of 68. A defense expert witness testified that D’s cognitive disability made him incapable of intelligently waiving his Miranda rights. The witness also testified that due to his disability, D was overly compliant and suggestible “causing him to be easily intimidated by the interrogation process.” 4AD explains that when a defendant of subnormal intelligence is involved, a court most closely scrutinize the circumstances of the asserted waiver of Miranda rights. 4AD finds that based on D’s IQ of 68, which placed him in the extremely low range of intellectual functioning and classified him as “mentally retarded”, and the defense expert’s testimony, the evidence failed to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that D validly waived his rights. 4AD notes that although the prosecution also called an expert, who testified that D did validly waive his rights, that expert was less experienced and his examination of D was substantially less thorough, and aspects of his testimony were not supported by the record. 4AD further finds that the proof fails to establish that D’s statements were voluntary beyond a reasonable doubt, due to D’s disability, as well as the interrogation techniques used by police, which were suggestive and took advantage of D’s overly compliant nature.
Family Law Case Summaries:
- Matter of Cardwell v Mighells (CAF 13-02130) – In this custody/visitation matter, 4AD finds that the Family Court properly dismissed the father’s petition for visitation with the parties’ two-year-old child. The father is a registered level one sex offender, and admitted that he did not complete the sex offender risk assessment ordered by the lower court. 4AD explains that while there is a rebuttable presumption in favor of visitation with a noncustodial parent, a Family Court “may deny visitation to parties that refuse to submit to examinations”. The Family Court was thus authorized to deny visitation on that ground. 4AD further finds that the Family Court did not abuse its discretion by requiring the father to undergo another sex offender risk assessment before reapplying for visitation. The Family Court properly determined that a prior risk assessment completed by the father’s treatment provider was not sufficient because the treatment provider was not impartial.
- Matter of Gelster v Burns (CAF 13-01255) – In this custody/visitation matter, the mother and father both filed petitions seeking to modify a prior custody order. The lower court granted the father’s motion to dismiss the mother’s petition at the close of her proof. The father then presented his proof, and the court eventually awarded him sole custody of the child. 4AD finds that the lower court erred in dismissing the mother’s petition. The mother’s proof, which must be viewed as true on a motion to dismiss, established a change of circumstances based on, among other things, her completion of a substance abuse program. 4AD thus concludes that the lower court erred in failing to afford the mother’s proof every favorable inference that could be reasonably drawn from it. Nonetheless, 4AD further finds that the father’s subsequent proof refuted the mother’s evidence, and the mother did not prove that an award of sole custody to her would be in the child’s best interests.