Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New York attempted murder case stemming from a shooting outside an apartment complex. The court’s opinion discussed, among other issues, the defendant’s motion to suppress the identification of the defendant made by the complaining witness. Ultimately, the court concluded that, although there may have been issues with the witnesses’ identification of the defendant, because the witness knew the defendant from before the incident, the defendant’s constitutional rights were not adversely impacted.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s opinion, a man was shot outside his apartment complex on September 18, 2011. While at the hospital, the man told detectives that the person who shot him was known as “Chulo.” On two separate occasions, the witness identified the defendant from a single-photo, presented to him by a detective. Two years later, after the defendant’s arrest, the complaining witness identified the defendant again, this time in a double-blind sequential lineup.
Initially, the defendant challenged the procedures used during the double-blind lineup as suggestive. However, the court denied the defendant’s motion. Afterward, the defendant expanded his challenge to include the two previous identifications where the witness was only shown a single photograph. The trial court denied the defendant’s request, relying on the prosecution’s assurance that the witness knew the defendant. In response, the defendant requested a Rodriguez hearing, which involves questioning the witness outside the presence of the jury regarding his familiarity with the defendant. The judge denied the defendant’s request for a Rodriguez hearing, and a jury convicted the defendant, who then appealed.
The Appellate Issue
On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court should have ordered a Rodriguez hearing, allowing the defense to delve into the basis of the witnesses’ familiarity with the defendant. The court acknowledged that a court should not take a prosecutor’s word that a witness was familiar with the defendant. Instead, the lower court should conduct a Rodriguez hearing, to determine if there is a sufficient basis for the claimed familiarity.
Here, the trial court did not conduct a Rodriguez hearing. However, the court went on to hold that, because at trial the complaining witness laid a sufficient foundation to establish he was familiar with the defendant, there was no harm in the court’s failure to conduct the Rodriguez hearing. Had the complaining witnesses’ testimony at trial been equivocal, the result of the appellate decision may have been different.
Have You Been Arrested for a Serious Crime?
If you have recently been arrested for a serious crime after a witness identified you, contact the dedicated criminal defense attorneys at Tilem & Associates. At Tilem & Associates, our aggressive team of trial lawyers represents clients facing all types of major felonies, including New York homicide offenses. We have an in-depth understanding of both constitutional and statutory law, which we put behind every one of the people we defend. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation with one of our experienced New York criminal defense attorneys, call 877-377-8666 today.