New York Court Grants Defendant’s Speedy Trial Motion to Dismiss in Opinion Highlighting Prosecution’s Unpreparedness for Trial

Recently, the  New York Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court sided with a defendant who was originally charged with and convicted of harassment in the second degree. in a very important speedy trial case that keeps prosecutors honest about complying with New York discovery laws. After being found guilty, the defendant filed a speedy trial motion to dismiss, arguing that the prosecution incorrectly advised the court it was ready for trial before it had turned over all of the documents it was required to disclose as discovery. Ultimately, the court agreed with the defendant, granting his motion to dismiss.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, police officers first arrested the defendant in this case after he became physically aggressive toward his mom. The State charged him with harassment in the second degree, and the defendant pleaded not guilty. The court subsequently scheduled the case for trial several months down the line. Prior to trial, as is standard in New York courts, both the prosecution and the defense appeared for several hearings to report in on the progress of trial preparation.

Also, in the state of New York, the prosecution in a criminal case is always required to file something called a “certificate of compliance” with the court. This certificate advises the court that the prosecution has provided all of the necessary “discovery” to the defense, meaning all of the relevant documents that the defense has requested as part of the trial preparation.

In this case, the prosecution filed its certificate of compliance as it was required to do. After having filed the certificate, one week before trial, the prosecution added documents to its list of discovery. The defendant’s case went to trial, and he was found guilty of harassment in the second degree.

The Decision

The defendant promptly appealed, arguing that the prosecution’s certificate of compliance was made in bad faith. Because the prosecution had additional documents that it did not disclose in a timely manner, the defense was unable to properly prepare for the trial. Because of this, said the defendant, the motion to dismiss should be granted.

The court reviewed the defendant’s argument and ultimately agreed that the prosecution had a duty to disclose the documents that it left out of its certificate of compliance. The prosecution’s statement that it was ready for trial was “illusory”, meaning it was not based on the truth. Because of the illusory nature of the certificate of compliance, the defense was unable to properly prepare for trial. The defendant’s motion to dismiss was therefore granted.

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