Case Summaries – Fourth Department Decisions Released on March 18, 2016

Published on April 1, 2016 12:51 pm by Piotr Banasiak in Appeals Blog

Criminal Case Summaries:

  • People v James (KA 12-01039) – 4AD reverses D’s conviction for manslaughter and assault because the lower court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the justification defense with respect to the assault count. The charges arose when D cut one victim with a piece of broken glass and fatally stabbed a second victim. 4AD finds that although D’s actions with respect to the first victim constituted deadly physical force, such force was justified in defense of a third person, because the first victim was using deadly physical force against D’s brother by striking him in the head with a champagne bottle. The lower court should thus have charged the justification defense with respect to deadly physical force on the assault count. 4AD further concludes that a new trial is required on both the assault and manslaughter counts, even though the lower court charged justification with respect to the latter count, because there is a “significant factual relationship” between the two counts.
  • People v Slack (KA 14-00726) – 4AD reduces D’s conviction for third-degree larceny to petit larceny because the trial evidence was legally insufficient to establish that the stolen property’s value exceeded $3,000. 4AD reaches the unpreserved issue in the interest of justice. The victim testified that specific items were stolen, provided the purchase price of some of those items, and the appraised value of other items, which was based on only a description of the items provided to an appraiser. That testimony did not provide a sufficient basis of knowledge to give the jury a reasonable basis to infer the value of the property, rather than then to speculate about it.

Family Law Case Summaries:

  • Matter of Girard v Neville (CAF 15-00153) – 4AD reverses the lower court’s order, which adjudged that D had willfully failed to obey a child support order. 4AD finds that the Support Magistrate failed to conduct a searching inquiring before permitting respondent to proceed pro se. Without such inquiry, the waiver of the right to counsel could not be deemed knowing, voluntary, and intelligent. 4AD notes that preservation of this issue is not required, and to the extent that its decision in Matter of Huard v Lugo (81 AD3d 1265) requires preservation, that decision is not to be followed.
  • Matter of Hirschman v McFadden (CAF 14-01947) – In this custody/visitation matter, 4AD affirms the lower court’s order, which denied the mother’s petition to relocate to Florida with the subject child. 4AD agrees with the lower court that the mother failed to meet her burden to show that the move would be in the child’s best interests. The mother asserted that she desired to move for financial reasons, but failed to put forth any proof of the purported job offer, and did not establish that the employment offer in Florida was for a job that would be anything more than temporary. There was also no proof to support the mother’s claim that the school system in Florida would be superior to the one in New York. 4AD also notes that the mother and child have better family support in New York.