CAL in the Courts

The postings below present recent victories for CAL clients in the courtroom.

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CAL win frees client from SORA registration

In People v. RC, the Appellate Division, First Department, agreed with CAL that client RC could not be required to register as a sex offender because his convictions for third-degree burglary and attempted second-degree burglary as sexually motivated felonies were not registerable offenses under SORA. The Court reached this issue in the interest of justice. Bryan Furst represented RC on appeal.

AD1 substantially reduces sentence, originally 13-26 years, to 3-6 years

BJ was convicted of 10 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument and one count of tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to an aggregate term of 13-26 years. Considering the nature of the offenses and the Manhattan District Attorney’s consent to a reduction, the Appellate Division reduced BJ’s sentence to a concurrent minimum term, making BJ eligible for immediate release. Carola Beeney and Allison Kahl represented BJ on appeal.

New York Supreme Court vacates CAL client's convictions, including controlled-substance sale and possession offenses, and dismisses the indictment for Brady violations

Prior to RH’s trial, the New York City Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor (SNP) failed to disclose more than 15 civil lawsuits filed against the officers involved in RH’s arrest, and 15 substantiated findings of misconduct. CAL filed a C.P.L. § 440.10 motion, arguing that SNP’s failure to disclose these impeachment materials violated the prosecution’s constitutional obligations under Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). SNP eventually conceded that it was aware of 11 of the civil lawsuits, but failed to provide this information to the defense. Accordingly, SNP withdrew its opposition to RH’s C.P.L. § 440.10(1)(h) motion and recommended that the court dismiss the indictment. On December 6, 2022, Justice Ruth Pickholz vacated RH’s convictions and dismissed the indictment. Beth Caldwell represented RH on appeal.

AD1 reverses attempted murder conviction for court's unlawful decision to exclude CAL client from discussions about justification defense

CAL client JG was tried and convicted of attempted murder and assault following a stabbing. JG asserted that the stabbing was justified. JG testified that, as a teenager, he suffered an incident that “changed the course of [his] life” in which his “heart started racing.” When the prosecutor objected, the court discussed the appropriateness of the testimony with the parties at a sidebar conference from which JG was excluded. At the conference, the prosecutor claimed the testimony was elicited solely to elicit sympathy for JG. Defense counsel argued that it was relevant to defendant’s physical capabilities and perception of danger, and therefore spoke to his justification defense. AD1 found that it was improper to exclude JG from discussions about the justification defense because the subject discussed “implicated defendant’s peculiar factual knowledge such that his participation might have assisted him in advancing his justification defense to the murder and assault counts.” Alison Haupt represented JG on appeal.

AD1 reverses assault conviction for court's failure to share entire contents of jury note with counsel.

AD1 found that the trial court’s failure to read to the parties the entirety of a note submitted just before the jury reached a verdict deprived counsel and his client, JH, meaningful notice. The court neglected to show the note to counsel and its paraphrase was incomplete, failing to include the jury’s request for reinstruction on the count charging second-degree assault, which was the only count on which JH was found guilty. AD1 found that the fact that the jury announced that it had reached a verdict before the note was read did not cure this mode of proceedings error. Abigail Everett represented JH on appeal.

NYCA reverses assault and robbery convictions for unlawful replacement of a sitting juror with a discharged alternate

Following a break in HM’s trial for assault and robbery, counsel for HM’s co-defendant informed the court that one of the trial jurors had discussed the case at a social gathering, and, as a result, should be dismissed. HM argued that, because the alternate jurors had been discharged, they could not be substituted and a mistrial was required. Nonetheless the court replaced the dismissed juror with an already discharged alternate, over objection.
Although AD1 found no error, NYCA reversed. It found that, once the trial judge thanked the alternate jurors for their service and “excused [them] from this case,” the alternate jurors were discharged, ceased to function as jurors, and could not be returned to the sitting jury. Abigail Everett represented HM on appeal.

AD1 waives $750 in fees and surcharge for teenage client JC

The Appellate Division, First Department used its interest of justice powers to waive $750 in court fees for JC, who was 16 and 17 at the time of the offenses charged. The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office consented to the waiver. Carola Beeney represented JC on appeal.

AD1 reverses arson conviction for possible juror bias

On September 27, 2022, the Appellate Division, First Department reversed CAL client PT’s conviction for arson in the second degree. The Court held that PT was entitled to a new trial because the court failed to elicit an unequivocal assurance of impartiality from a prospective juror who admitted that he was “definitely bais[ed] toward law enforcement.” Ben A. Schatz represented PT on appeal.

AD1 reverses conspiracy conviction for denial of right to represent oneself

BR was sentenced to two-to-six years after a jury trial for second-degree conspiracy. Before the trial started, the court rejected BR’s request for a new attorney without asking anything or letting BR explain the basis of this request. AD1 found this was a violation of People v. Sides, reversed BR’s conviction, and granted a new trial. Danielle Krumholz represents BR on appeal.
NYCA grants leave to consider whether court erroneously denied client the right to represent himself at trial.

NYCA grants leave to consider whether court erroneously denied client the right to represent himself at trial.

The trial court first accepted that SH’s request to represent himself was unequivocal but then coerced SH into changing his mind, failing to abide established protocols. Rather than address the court’s failure to follow established protocols, the Appellate Division found that there was no error because the initial request was equivocal. SH’s appeal will consider, among other things, whether People v. LaFontaine precluded the Appellate Division from revisiting whether the request was unequivocal. Here, the Appellate Division did not consider itself precluded and held that the request "did not reflect a definitive commitment to self-representation that would trigger a searching inquiry by the trial court." Megan Byrne represents SH on appeal.