Tuesday, April 25, 2006

AD4: SORA "case summary" standing alone sufficient to establish facts relied on for classification

The Fourth Department is handing down decisions from its April term this Friday. Between now and then, I'll be posting on some leftovers from the Court's March term.

People v McDaniel, 810 NYS2d 723 [available here]

The Court in McDaniel upheld the defendant's designation as a level 3 sex offender based in part on facts contained in a "case summary". These summaries are generated by the prison facility and contain information about the crime of conviction. The facts of the crime are most often set forth in a very conclusory manner, and it is my understanding that the case summaries are used at a facility as a kind of overview for an inmate's file. The case summaries are not signed and do not indicate who the author is, making them a particularly smelly kind of hearsay (because even if a defendant wanted to, there is no way to cross-examine the "declarant" (i.e. the person who wrote the case summary in the first place) about the accuracy of the facts contained in the summary).

Nevertheless, the Fourth Department in McDaniel held that the number of defendant's victims (one of the point assessment categories for a SORA classification) was sufficiently established by bare reliance on the case summary. (See McDaniel, 810 NYS2d at 723 ["Contrary to defendant's further contention, 'the facts contained in the case summary, which were not in dispute and upon which the court relied, provided the required evidentiary support' to establish the number of victims."].) This is a disappointing result, but not necessarily a surprising one; the safeguards at SORA classification hearings are not on par with a criminal proceeding, and sex offenders are not exactly the most sympathetic bunch. Still and all, these case summaries are a fairly flimsy reed upon which to balance the weight of a level 3 SORA classification.