Articles Posted in Violent Crimes

In a recent New York criminal case, the New York Appellate Division affirmed the trial court decision, finding that the court had properly denied the defendant’s omnibus motion to suppress statements. Further, the appellate court denied the defendant’s claims that the lower court acted with improvidence by allowing the State to recall an expert, that evidence introduced by the State improperly appealed to the jury’s sympathy, and that the sentence imposed was excessive. The defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree by jury verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was convicted by a jury in the County Court of Westchester County on October 3, 2019, for murder in the second degree. The defendant’s appeal brought for review the denial, after a hearing, of the part of the defendant’s omnibus motion, which was to suppress his statements to law enforcement officials. The defendant was convicted in part based on statements he made to the police while in custody, as well as medical evidence. Those statements to law enforcement officers came after he was arrested and advised of his Miranda rights.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant made several claims, including filing an omnibus motion to suppress his statements to law enforcement officials, claiming that it was an improvident exercise of the County Court’s discretion to permit the prosecution to recall their expert witness to address an issue raised during cross-examination of a police officer, claiming that a 20-second “love you video” from the mother to the deceased child victim improperly appealed to the jury’s sympathy, and a claim that the sentence imposed was excessive.

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In a recent murder case before a New York trial court, the defendant argued that evidence relating to a 1984 murder should not have been entered into the court record. The evidence, brought forward by a team of investigators from the State, used DNA from the murder victim to narrow down a list of potential suspects in the case, eventually bringing prosecutors to the defendant. In its opinion, the appellate court denied the defendant’s motion to suppress, concluding that the DNA evidence was indeed admissible.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, in November of 1984, the body of a teenager was found in Rochester. The victim appeared to have been raped in addition to killed, and police officers recovered sperm from her body when they investigated the scene. For 33 years, investigators were unable to find a DNA match for the semen.

In 2017, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services created a new regulation regarding DNA testing. The new rule allowed investigators to use a suspect’s DNA not only to find the individual that committed the crime, but also to find any known family members of the suspect as well. This new process was known as “familial DNA search”, because when officers found a suspect’s family members, they were then able to more easily track down the suspect him or herself.

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Criminal defendants in the State of New York may often feel like they are playing Russian roulette with all of the variables affecting their case which may be out of their control. The assignment of a certain prosecutor, judge, or jury to a case can have an outsized influence on the result of a case. When defendants are convicted upon illegal or improper evidence and tactics by the state, the right to an appeal can be the final chance a defendant has to vindicate themselves from a conviction. The New York Appellate Division recently addressed an appeal that was filed by a defendant who had been convicted of several violent crimes and challenged the police and prosecution conduct pertaining to his arrest and conviction.

The defendant in the recently decided appeal was convicted in early 2020 of manslaughter and several lesser crimes after a jury trial. The defendant appealed his conviction, arguing that the trial court made several errors in his prosecution. The defendant’s primary challenge was to the use of a police lineup for purposes of identification. Before his prosecution, the defendant was included in a lineup with several others. Under New York law, investigators are allowed to use a police lineup for identification purposes, but the participants must be sufficiently similar in appearance to the defendant so as to not orient the witness toward the defendant. The Appellate Division determined that the other participants in the lineup used in this case met that requirement, and the defendant’s appeal of this issue was rejected by the court.

The defendant also challenged a certain line of questioning pursued by the prosecutor when the defendant himself was testifying in his defense. The prosecutor asked the defendant to state on the record whether another witness was lying to the jury. The  court determined that this question was not proper, however, the defendant’s trial attorney failed to object to the question at the time it was asked, and the court refused to consider the issue because it was not properly preserved for appellate review. In issues of grave error, an appellate court may address an unpreserved issue, but the bar is much higher to pass for such consideration. Because the defendant’s trial counsel failed to object to the questioning, the  court refused to reverse the defendant’s conviction.

The US Constitution protects many rights of Americans accused of crimes. One of the critical protections of the Constitution is the confrontation clause. The Confrontation Clause is included in the 6th Amendment and states in pertinent part: “the accused shall enjoy the right…to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” Enforcing the confrontation clause ensures that defendants are not convicted upon anonymous testimonies. Furthermore, the confrontation clause provides that a defendant or their attorney will have the opportunity to cross-examine any witnesses who offer testimony or evidence that the defendant is guilty of a crime.  Further, the confrontation clause prohibits the reliance on hearsay testimony to convict the accused.

Like most constitutional protections, the confrontation clause has its limits and exceptions, as evidenced by a recent New York Court of Appeals decision that affirmed a defendant’s murder conviction despite confrontation clause issues.

The defendant in the recently decided case was involved in a neighborhood fight with several acquaintances, when he allegedly went home, returned with a firearm, and shot into a crowd. Bullets fired by the defendant allegedly struck and killed a two-year-old child. Based on eyewitness testimony, authorities initially arrested another man for the crime. After further investigation and DNA analysis of clothing from the scene, police decided that the defendant was the actual shooter, and he was arrested and charged. The initial suspect quickly pleaded guilty to a gun charge and was released without any charges related to the murder.

In a recent opinion coming out of a New York court, the defendant unsuccessfully appealed his guilty conviction for manslaughter in the first degree. The defendant’s case emerged after he got into a physical altercation with another man. Following the altercation, police showed up at the scene and questioned the defendant extensively. Based on testimony from these officers as well as other people familiar with the incident, the defendant was found guilty. On appeal, he argued that the court had incorrectly instructed the jury on how to proceed in deciding his case. Disagreeing with the defendant, the court eventually affirmed the original verdict.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant was charged with manslaughter in the first degree after he choked another person for several minutes with an intent to cause serious physical injury. After the incident, the defendant spoke to police officers and explicitly admitted that he had choked and strangled the victim. He later spoke with a friend and a cousin, who both testified during the trial that the defendant had admitted the crimes to them soon after.

At trial, the defendant testified that he only briefly grabbed the victim’s neck. According to the defendant, his only goal was to stop the victim from fighting him, and he was acting more out of self-defense than out of aggression.

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In a recent murder case coming out of a New York court, the defendant was partially successful in his appeal. Originally, the defendant was convicted of several crimes, including murder in the second degree, kidnapping in the first degree, burglary in the first degree, and attempted robbery in the first degree. On appeal, the defendant made many arguments, one of which was that incriminating evidence coming from his clothing should have been suppressed at trial. The court agreed with the defendant, ruling that the court should have suppressed the DNA evidence coming from his clothing.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, one evening in 2014, three men with masks forced themselves into an apartment and began shooting at the apartment’s residents. One of the residents was killed, and the three suspects promptly fled the scene.

The same evening, the defendant in this case was admitted to the emergency room with a gunshot wound in his leg. When an officer came to question him about the wound, the defendant said he needed to rest and would answer more questions at a later time. The officer left the room, taking a bag of the defendant’s clothing without permission as he left.

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In a recent case coming out of a New York court, the defendant’s appeal of his murder conviction was denied. In 2017, the defendant was convicted of murder in the second degree, assault in the second degree, aggravated criminal contempt, criminal contempt in the first degree, and assault in the third degree. Taking issue with his guilty verdict, the defendant appealed; however, the court rejected the defendant’s argument and affirmed his original convictions.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant and the victim were alone together in an apartment one evening. The pair were arguing at the time of the victim’s death, leading the jury to later infer that the defendant had some kind of motive to hurt the victim. After the death, a medical examiner conducted an autopsy on the victim’s body. That examiner discovered that the victim died from hemorrhages in her skull caused by blows to the head. She also had hemorrhages in her larynx, which would have been due to some kind of external compression. Additionally, the autopsy revealed that the victim had experienced fatal damage to her liver, which could have only come from blunt force trauma.

Reviewing this report from the medical examiner along with other evidence presented at trial, the jury found the defendant guilty of murdering the victim.

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An appellate court recently issued an opinion in a defendant’s appeal of his New York murder conviction. At the core of the defendant’s appeal is whether the officers who took him into custody had probable cause to arrest him. Before the police officers took the defendant into custody, they interviewed several witnesses, including two accomplices. The witnesses stated that the defendant killed the victim. One of the witnesses stated that they overheard a call the defendant made to another person during the murder. The witness recounted that during the call, the defendant stated that he was killing the victim by strangulation. The witness further explained that he overheard the defendant state that the victim was bleeding but not dying. The defendant motioned to suppress the informant’s statements, and the court conducted a combined Huntley and Dunaway hearing.

In New York, defendants may argue various motions when they believe that police did not abide by the proper procedures to get evidence in the case.  Among the most common examples of motion to suppress hearings are Huntley and Dunaway hearings. Huntley hearings are proceedings to determine the admissibility of a defendant’s statement. During these proceedings, a criminal defendant’s attorney may argue that the defendant’s statements were made against their will due to pressure, threats, trickery, or without Miranda warnings. A Dunaway hearing is a motion to suppress evidence that authorities obtained from an illegal arrest or detention.

Arrests and detentions can stem from many different situations; in some cases, an officer witnesses a crime, and in other situations, someone reports the incident. The reporting individual may be a citizen informant, an anonymous tipster or an accomplice. Citizen informants are those that provide information and their identity, which constitutes the basis for probable cause. An anonymous tipster provides information about a crime but not information about themselves. Courts generally favor testimony from a citizen informant compared to that of an anonymous tipster. Anonymous informant’s tips often need substantiation and are often regarded as less reliable.  Tips from accomplices who are informing to curry favor with the prosecutor may similarly require corroboration.

Last month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York attempted murder case, requiring the court to discuss the elements of an “attempt.” The court ultimately found that the defendant’s actions did not constitute an attempt, and vacated his conviction.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was incarcerated for alleged acts of domestic violence. While in jail, the defendant approached a fellow inmate who was going to be released soon. The defendant asked the inmate to kill his wife and mother-in-law. In exchange for this, the defendant promised to give him a home.

The inmate had no intention of carrying out the defendant’s request, but played along. He told the defendant that he could do it, and gave the defendant a phone number to reach him after his release. The defendant provided detailed instructions on how he wanted the inmate to kill his wife and mother-in-law.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York homicide case involving a defendant’s appeal of his conviction. The defendant appealed the lower court’s decision to admit his statement to police in the moments after the murder. However, the appellate court found that there was no error in admitting the statement. The court further explained that, if there was any error in admitting the statement, doing so was harmless.

The Facts of the Case

The defendant was alleged to have killed another man, whom he met out on the street around 2 a.m. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant was drinking beer with friends. Throughout the evening, the defendant expressed some violent thoughts, and discussed his gang membership.

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