Monday, July 09, 2007

Lightning Round

Time to clear the hopper before I shut this thing down for the summer. Here are brief summaries of the most recent decisions from the Court of Appeals and the Fourth Department. Regular posting will resume when decisions start coming down again in the fall.


People v Nieves-Andino, 2007 NY Slip Op 05584 [available here]

Writing for the majority, Justice Pigott holds that a shooting victim's response to police questioning at the scene of the shooting was not testimonial because, although the assailant had fled the scene, "the circumstances of the police officer's questioning of the victim . . . objectively indicate[d] that the officer reasonably assumed an ongoing emergency and acted with the primary purpose of preventing further harm." (Nieves-Andino, 2007 NY Slip Op 05584.) Justice Jones concurred and would have held that the statements were testimonial because the shooting was over, the shooter had fled, and the police had downshifted into "investigation" mode by the time the challenged statement was elicited, but any error was harmless. (Id at __ [Jones, J., dissenting].)

People v Lito, 2007 NY Slip Op 05582 [available here].)

The definition of "intoxication" for purposes of section 1192[3] of the VTL "refer[s] to a disordered state of mind caused by alcohol, not by drugs." (Lito, 2007 NY Slip Op 05582.)

People v Bratton, 2007 NY Slip Op 05135 [available here]

Parole officers do not have the power to make warrantless arrests for parole violations "even if committed in their presence. A member of the Board or a designated officer of the Division must issue a warrant." (Bratton, 2007 NY Slip Op 05135.)


People v Casper, 2007 NY Slip Op 05851 [available here]

Evidence that "defendant caused the death of his wife by causing or allowing the van in which she was a passenger to go over a cliff" was not uncommonly brutal enough to sustain a conviction for depraved indifference murder. (Casper, 2007 NY Slip Op 05851.)

People v Extale, 2007 NY Slip Op 05855 [available here]

The Court reversed Mr. Extale's convictions for first-degree Assault and first-degree vehicular assault because the jury's verdict convicting on both counts was inconsistent. "Assault in the first degree requires a finding that defendant acted intentionally, while vehicular assault in the first degree requires a finding that defendant was criminally negligent. [...] It cannot be said that defendant simultaneously intended to cause serious physical injury to the police officer while failing to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk of serious injury to the police officer." (Extale, 2007 NY Slip Op 05855.)

People v Minter, 2007 NY Slip Op 05866 [available here]

The defendant's motion to vacate his plea should have been granted because the trial court "failed to advise defendant at the time of the plea that his sentence would include a mandatory period of postrelease supervision." (Minter, 2007 NY Slip Op 05866.)

People v Finley, 2007 NY Slip Op 05868 [available here]

Defendant was convicted of possessing "dangerous" contraband in prison. The "dangerous" contraband was one marijuana cigarette that the inmate tossed to the ground when confronted by a guard. While acknowledging that marijuana is not necessarily "dangerous" contraband, the Court held that the defendant made the marijuana dangerous by throwing it to the ground. Seriously. From the opinion:

A Deputy Inspector General for the Department of Corrections testified that defendant's possession of marihuana endangered the safety of the correctional facility because, by throwing the marihuana on the ground, defendant created a heightened risk that another inmate would attempt to grab the marihuana and that the correction officer would then have to chase after the other inmate. In addition, the correction officer had to turn his back and walk away from defendant in order to retrieve the marihuana that was thrown on the ground, thus creating a heightened risk of injury to the officer. Moreover, by focusing his attention on defendant and the marihuana, the officer was no longer able to supervise the inmates on his block.

(Finley, 2007 NY Slip Op 05868.)

Of course, none of that stuff actually happened. Is the fact that the defendant dropped his marijuana cigarette instead of putting it in his pocket really the elevating factor here worthy of extra punishment for possessing "dangerous" contraband? Seriously, this is where the Court is drawing the line? Oy.

People v Syrell, 2007 NY Slip Op 05903 [available here]

The trial court erred in imposing an enhanced sentence in defendant's absence without first inquiring "into the possibility of locating defendant within a reasonable period of time [...]." (Syrell, 2007 NY Slip Op 05903.)

People v Clark, 2007 NY Slip Op 05920 [available here]

The trial court's failure to "set forth any basis for its Sandoval ruling" leads the Fourth Department to conclude "that the court abdicated its responsibility to balance the Sandoval factors and determine that the probative value of the evidence outweighed the potential prejudice to defendant." (Clark, 2007 NY Slip Op 05920.) Harmless, though. (See id.)