People v. Clifford Jones


Issue before the Court: Whether the Court should alter its jurisprudence, in place for nearly 40 years, that "[t]he power to review a discretionary order denying a [CPL 440.10(1)(g)] motion to vacate judgment upon the ground of new discovered evidence ceases at the Appellate Division." (People v. Crimmins, 38 NY2d 407, 409 [1975].)

Held: The Court overruled that part of Crimmins which held that the Court had no power to review summary denials of such motions for an abuse of discretion as a matter of law; the Crimmins rule "needlessly restricted" the Court’s power of review. Judge Pigott reviewed the antiquated rational behind the old rule and decided it was no longer valid. Moreover, in this case the motion court did abuse its discretion with the summary denial. Judge Abdus-Salaam, concurring in the result, would have held that there was no abuse of discretion here because, under the terms of 440.30(4), the motion court actually had no authority to deny the motion without a hearing; thus, there was no authority to abuse.

CAL Observes: This ruling adds an arrow to the quiver of defendants seeking to redress wrongful convictions. This arrow fits, perhaps, because of the one the Court removed in its Giles/Hawkins decision two days later.