CAL in the Courts

The postings below present recent noteworthy CAL court appearances and case outcomes. Please use the Contact Us inquiry form if you'd like further information about any of these cases.

Client's Conviction Vacated
C.S. accepted a guilty plea in 2014 to a charge that no one—not the judge, the A.D.A. who offered her the plea bargain, or her defense attorney—realized would require her to register as a sex offender.  More than two years after her sentence was over, after she had moved on with her life, she was notified of this consequence by the state of New York.  CAL filed a motion to withdraw her guilty plea, arguing that if C.S. had been told about this significant consequence at the time she pled guilty, she would never have accepted the plea offer.  Agreeing that sex offender registration was not the intended result of their plea bargain, the prosecution consented to vacate her conviction and allowed C.S. to plead guilty to an alternative charge that would not brand her as a sex offender. Our client was represented by Molly Schindler. 
Client's Conviction Reversed
On August 1, 2017, the Appellate Division First Department reversed Cal client A.B.’s attempted murder conviction and 25 year sentence.  A.B. was accused of attempting to kill the complainant during a robbery of a drug spot.  During the incident, the complainant was shot in the head and subsequently had the frontal lobe of his brain removed.  At trial, the complainant provided conflicting testimony concerning what happened during the incident ; he was initially unable to identify his shooter.  Following an overnight recess, the complainant returned to court and insisted that A.B. was responsible.  The jury convicted A.B. after the prosecution presented expert testimony, refuted by medical records, that the complainant’s brain remained “intact” despite his massive injuries.  The Appellate Division reversed the conviction after extensively reviewing the evidence in a lengthy decision.  The court refused to dismiss the charges because the verdict was against the weight of the evidence, but found that the defense had been prejudiced by the introduction of hearsay evidence.  That evidence had provided an alibi to the person the defense claimed had actually done the shooting.  In reversing, the Appellate Division rejected the prosecution’s argument that the evidence had not been introduced for its truth but only to explain the nature of the police investigation which the defense had challenged as sloppy. Claudia Trupp represented A.B. on appeal.
First Department Reverses Denial of Client's Vacatur Motion
On July 13, 2017, the Appellate Division, First Department reversed the decision of New York County Supreme Court Justice Bruce Allen, who had denied our client CP’s motion to vacate his conviction on the grounds that he was denied his right to effective assistance of counsel in connection with his guilty plea to attempted third-degree sale of a controlled substance. CP, a lawful permanent resident from Trinidad, alleged that his attorney, when counseling him plead guilty, assured him that, so long as he stayed out of further legal trouble, he might avoid deportation. The First Department found that, because CP was pleading guilty to an aggravated felony, deportation was mandatory irrespective of good behavior. The First Department remanded the matter for a hearing to give CP an opportunity to demonstrate the misadvice, and to show that, had he been correctly advised, he would not have pleaded guilty. Mark Zeno represents CP.
Deliberating Juror's Emotions Rendered Her Grossly Disqualified, Court of Appeals Finds

On June 22, 2017, finding that the trial court wrongly refused defense counsel’s application to dismiss a deliberating juror as “grossly unqualified” under CPL  270.35(1), the Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the first-degree manslaughter conviction of CAL client D.S.  On the fourth day of deliberations, the juror sought to speak to the trial court.  In the ensuing colloquy, the juror consistently maintained that she was unable to obey her oath and “separate her emotions from her ability to deliberate.”  She could not, she insisted, “reach a verdict based solely on the evidence presented at trial and the law.”  For its part, the trial court insisted that the juror had to deliberate fairly, because her removal would force a mistrial. 

Stressing that whether a seated juror was grossly unqualified constituted “a legal determination,” the Court of Appeals observed that the juror had not declared an actual bias.  The Court’s case law, however, did not require actual bias for a “grossly unqualified” determination.  The Court also stated that, while “a declaration regarding emotions alone does not render a juror grossly unqualified,” this juror had declared that her emotions had disabled her from deliberating fairly and impartially.  D.S. was represented by CAL attorney Susan Salomon.  
Appellate Division Orders New Suppression Hearing
On June 29, 2017, the Appellate Division, First Department found that our client S.S. received ineffective assistance of counsel when his trial lawyer failed to argue at a suppression hearing that there were no exigent circumstances justifying the warrantless search of his bag incident to his arrest.  The First Department reasoned that S.S. presented substantial arguments for suppression on that ground on appeal, and that additional fact-finding was necessary to develop the record with respect to the precise circumstances of the search.  As a result, the court held the appeal in abeyance and remitted the case to the Supreme Court for a new suppression hearing.  Our client is represented by Hunter Haney.
Client Granted Lowest SORA Level
On June 16, E.C.'s SORA registration level was reduced to the least restrictive level, Level 1, after the Board of Sex Offender Examiners and the DA's office consented to the reduction. E.C. is a 59-year-old man whose SORA offense in 2010 has been his only contact with the criminal justice system. In the six years since his release from incarceration he has maintained steady employment, engaged in volunteer work, and retained the support of his family. Acknowledging E.C.'s accomplishments and his remorse for his crime, the Board and court found clear and convincing evidence that a reduction to Level 1 was appropriate. Our client was represented by Molly Schindler. 
Client's Conviction Reversed and Dismissed
On June 15, 2017, the Appellate Division, First Department reversed and dismissed CAL client Y.S.’s resisting arrest and second-degree obstructing governmental administration convictions.  Y.S. was charged on the theory that she allegedly interfered with the arrest of her brother, and then with her own arrest.  However, the accusatory instrument neglected to state any facts showing that the underlying arrest of Y.S.’s brother was authorized, even though this is an essential element of both resisting arrest and second-degree obstructing governmental administration.  Due to this omission, the court found the accusatory instrument to be insufficient on its face, and reversed and dismissed Y.S.’s convictions.  Our client was represented by Megan Byrne.
Client's Predicate Conviction Thrown Out, Resentencing Granted
On June 6, 2017, a Bronx County Supreme Court judge granted CAL client C.T. a resentencing after the DA’s office conceded that the out-of-state predicate used to enhance his sentence was not the equivalent of a New York felony. Our client was represented by Brittany Francis. 
Conviction Reversed by Appellate Division
On May 30, 2017, the Appellate Division, First Department, reversed our client’s conviction for attempted first-degree robbery.  It was alleged that he attempted to rob a Sunglass Hut of a pair of sunglasses, after brandishing a knife.  He was charged with not only the robbery attempt, but also criminal possession of a weapon.  When the police arrested the defendant as he left the scene, they found no knife, and the jury acquitted of the weapon possession count. In its charge to the jury, the court failed to tell the jurors that, to be guilty of the robbery attempt, the client had to have actually possessed a knife during the incident.  Although the defense lawyer failed to object to the charge, the appellate court reversed in the interest of justice.
Client Defeats SORA Upward Departure
On May 17, 2017, our client DW was determined to be a Level 2 sex offender, despite requests from the prosecution and the Board of Examiners of Sex Offenders for the judge to “upwardly depart” to a Level 3.  The request for the Level 3 was based solely on DW’s commission of a subsequent nonsexual offense and was made despite the prosecution’s praise for DW’s rehabilitation in prison.  The Bronx County Supreme Court judge ultimately was persuaded that the upward departure from DW’s scoring as a low Level 2 on the basis of a nonsexual offense was not warranted.  The difference is significant for DW, since as a Level 3 he would have been barred from living in his family home because of its proximity to a school, even though his offense did not involve a child.  He is now back home with his family.  DW was represented by Julia Busetti.