People v. Reyes Rodriguez


AD1 order dated February 23, 2012, affirming judgment of conviction. Decision below: 92 A.D.3d 586, 940 N.Y.S.2d 565. Pigott, J., granted leave August 13, 2012.

ISSUES PRESENTED: (1) Whether a testifying police officer’s testimony about how he learned of defendant’s nickname from a non-testifying cooperator violated the Confrontation Clause. (2) Whether defense counsel preserved a Confrontation Clause error when objecting to the admission of a non-testifying co-defendant’s statement, even though the objection did not refer directly to the Constitution. (3) Whether the accomplice testimony was sufficiently corroborated

Issue before the Court: What standard applies on review of the sufficiency of accomplice corroboration, where the case was tried pre-Reome, and the jury was charged on the much more favorable Hudson standard, which requires that the corroboration be wholly independent of the accomplice testimony.

Held: As the People didn’t object to the more demanding test for corroborative evidence set forth in Hudson and which the court charged, that is the standard under which the corroborating evidence’s sufficiency must be assessed. As the independent evidence was minimal and did not tend "to connect the defendant with the commission" of the crimes (CPL 60.22 [1]), the indictment must be dismissed.

CAL ObservesReome case changed the landscape overnight, and unfortunately for the worse, for defendants implicated by accomplice testimony. The difference between the Hudson standard and the Reome standard is profound, as under Reome, evidence that simply harmonizes with the accomplice testimony can be corroborating.  Rodriguez provides a window of hope for defendants who are tried pre-Reome, where the court may well have charged the then-prevailing Hudson standard. Attorneys dealing with accomplice testimony should review the charge in their case closely to assess whehter they can raise sufficiency (and, arguably, weight of the evidence) using the Hudson standard.