The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, Second Department unanimously overturned a Murder conviction from Nassau County because the trial Court committed a series of errors which combined to deny the defendant a fair trial. In People v. Terraine Slide the Court ruled that permitting the prosecutor to ask the defendant about his prior arrests for Marijuana and Shoplifting without giving a “limiting instruction” combined with additional errors deprived the defendant of a fair trial. Generally, a prosecutor may only use prior bad acts to cross-examine a defendant for the limited purpose of impeaching the defendant’s credibility. The jury is generally instructed that they may consider the evidence only for that limited purpose and not to show a propensity by the defendant toward committing crimes.
In addition, Judges are required to hold a Sandoval hearing prior to trial to determine what if any prior bad acts may be used to cross-examine the defendant. The concern is that jurors will hear about a defendant’s criminal record and convict him based upon his record and not the evidence of guilt.
In the Slide case, the prosecutor asked the defendant about his mother’s incarceration which was clearly irrelevant and which tended to insinuate that he had a genetic predisposition to commit crimes. Although a motion for a mistrial was made, it was denied by the trial Court.
The New York criminal law firm of Tilem & Campbell represents individuals charged with all types of serious criminal offenses including murder and other types of homicide. Serious charges of these types require a high level of skill and experience to properly defend. Senior partner, Peter H. Tilem has been practicing criminal law for almost 20 years and has the advantage of having been a homicide prosecutor for the District Attorney’s office.

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