People v. Terence McCray


AD3 order dated January 17, 2013, affirming judgment of conviction. Decision below: 102 AD3d 1000, 958 NYS2d 511. McCarthy, J. (AD dissenter), granted leave March 5, 2013.

ISSUES PRESENTED: In "a classic he-said she-said" rape prosecution: (1) Whether the court erred in not turning over to defendant certain of the rape victim’s mental health records, including evidence of a prior false rape accusation, regardless of whether the documents would themselves have been admissible into evidence at trial. (2) The limitation on defense counsel’s cross of the victim about her hypersexuality. (3) Whether counsel was ineffective for failure to object to the introduction of certain evidence. (Assigned counsel: Paul J. Connolly, 2 Wedge Road, Delmar, NY 12054.)

Factual Background: McCray, accused of rape, sought disclosure of the complainant’s mental health records.  The trial court reviewed the records and deemed only a few relevant to the defense.  The case presented a classic credibility contest between the accused and the complainant concerning what had taken place during an encounter that indisputably began by mutual consent.  The complainant claimed that the initial consensual encounter eventually devolved into a violent rape.  She called 911 and police observed blood on her clothes and documented her injuries.  McCray claimed that following consensual sex the complainant had demanded money, they had fought, the complainant grabbed his pants, he tackled her and then she bit him.


Issue before the Court: Whether the trial court abused its discretion by withholding mental health records depicting that the complainant had previously accused her father of rape.  While the defense argued that the court’s withholding of the evidence deprived him of his right to confront his accuser, the Court of Appeals analyzed the case pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963), but because the information involved confidential mental health records submitted for in camera review, the Court considered whether the trial court had abused its discretion.


Held: the trial court did not abuse its discretion by withholding portions of the mental health records which the majority deemed cumulative and of little relevance.  The majority determined that some of the undisclosed evidence concerning the complainant’s hypersexuality would have been inadmissible pursuant to the rape shield law.  The records relating to the complainant’s unsubstantiated claim of sexual abuse by her father, gave the majority “some pause” but were ultimately deemed immaterial because the nature of the allegations differed markedly from those raised against McCray.


CAL Observes: Justice Rivera, in dissent, criticized the majority’s holding that the “denial of vast amounts of revealing medical documents was proper in this case.”  In a case involving a credibility contest, it is difficult to reconcile the majority’s holding here with the Court’s prior holding in People v. Hunter, 11 N.Y.3d 1 [2008](finding a Brady violation where prosecutor failed to disclose the complainant’s report that another man had committed a similar rape).  Two factors seem to ground the majority’s reasoning.  First, the nature of the complainant’s outcry against her father and McCray were not similar in nature; second, the prosecution disclosed the confidential material to the court which conducted an independent review.  However, as the dissent points out, in a case where the outcome depends on whose version of events the jury credits, the denial of access to impeachment material of this nature endangers a defendant’s rights to due process and confrontation.