New York Court Denies Defendant’s Appeal in Murder Case, Ruling that Lineup was Not Overly Suggestive

In a November 2023 case before an appellate court in New York, the defendant appealed his convictions of murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court made a mistake in refusing to suppress identification evidence that led to his conviction. The higher court considered the defendant’s argument, reviewed relevant case law, and ultimately affirmed the defendant’s original convictions.

Facts of the Case

The defendant was originally charged after he fatally shot a 21-year-old man outside of a billiards hall. According to the appellate opinion, witnesses saw the defendant run up to the victim outside of the billiards hall at approximately 1:00 in the morning, shoot twice, and immediately run away. Emergency responders took the victim to the hospital, but he ultimately died of his injuries.

As part of their investigation, police officers brought witnesses into the station for an identification lineup. The witnesses consistently picked out the defendant, and the State charged him with murder in the second degree and criminal possession of a weapon in the second degree. He pled not guilty, and the case went to trial. The jury found the defendant guilty as charged, and the lower court sentenced him to 25 years to life in prison.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that the identification lineup was overly suggestive. There were not enough similarities, the defendant argued, between him and the other individuals in the lineup. The witnesses therefore had more reason to pick the defendant out of the lineup solely based on the differences in the defendant’s appearance versus the other participants’ appearances.

Considering this argument, the higher court ultimately disagreed with the defendant. According to relevant case law, the officers had a duty to choose participants with similar physical characteristics and to conceal any major differences between those participants and the defendant. After looking at the lineup photos, the trial court had decided that the officers did their duty, and that the defendant did not look significantly different from the lineup participants. Reviewing the photos again on appeal, the higher court agreed with the trial court’s decision.

Because the appellate court found that the lineup was not prejudicial, it held that the lower court was correct in denying the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence resulting from the lineup. The court denied the defendant’s appeal, and his sentence was subsequently affirmed.

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