The People v. Rohan Manragh, Jr
Issue before the Court: Whether a defendant’s guilty plea automatically forfeits an appellate claim that the integrity of the grand jury proceeding is impaired by the prosecutor’s refusal to ask the grand jury to vote on whether to call a witness that the defendant requested.
Held: The 5-2 majority dodged this threshold issue, not deciding it. Instead, the majority looked at the merits of the defendant’s claim, decided that the prosecutor erred but, under the particular facts of this case, the integrity of the process was not constitutionally impaired because the witness’s proposed testimony would not really have been helpful to the defense, and thus held the claim “forfeited” by the guilty plea. Judge Rivera, joined by Judge Fahey, concurred in the result, agreeing with the majority as to their view of the merits. The dissent noted that the majority had dodged the threshold issue–to wit, does such a claim survive a guilty plea, instead putting “the cart before the horse.” The dissent would have held that such an issue is not forfeited by the guilty, even if it loses on the merits upon the facts of a particular case.
CAL Observes: Under People v. Pelchat, 62 NY2d 97 (1984), a claim going to the integrity of the grand jury process, such as this one, survives a guilty plea. The dissent is thus correct. The majority’s dodging of the threshold issue is not comprehensible. The majority decision is completely unhelpful to future litigants.