Tag: NY Criminal Case severance

The issue before the Court is whether a joint trial should proceed (judicial economy) or where the trial should be severed (because of prejudice to one or more of the Defendants). In making its decision, the Court heavily relies upon the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause, through Crawford and its progeny, and the Defendants’ Due Process Rights to a Fair Trial. In so doing, the Court notes that

Severance may be granted for cases in which multiple defendants have antagonistic defenses. People v. Mahboubian, 74 NY2d 174 [1989]. Even if the charges against multiple defendants are properly joined in a single indictment, a trial court may grant severance “for good cause shown,” from which a court finds that a “defendant will be unduly prejudiced by a joint trial.” CPL §200.40(1). “Where proof against the defendants is supplied by the same evidence, only the most cogent reasons warrant severance.'” People v. Mahboubian, 74 NY2d 174, 183, citing, People v. Bornholdt, 33 NY2d 75, 87 [1973].

Severance is not required, even in those cases in which there is hostility between or amongst the parties, different trial strategies, or inconsistencies in each defense. People v. Cruz, 66 NY2d 61 [1985], rev’d on other grounds and remanded, 481 US 61. “It must appear that a joint trial necessarily will, or did, result in unfair prejudice to the moving party and substantially impair his defense.” Id., at 73, 74. In determining whether defenses are sufficiently antagonistic, therefore requiring severance, a court looks to two tests. In the first, a court must determine whether the defenses are logically inconsistent — whether the core of each defense is rationally irreconcilable with the other. See United States v. Romanello, 726 F2d 173 [5th Cir. 1984]. In the second test, a court must consider whether there is a danger that a jury will unjustifiably infer a defendant’s guilt because of the conflicting and irreconcilable defenses. See Rhone v. United States, 365 F2d 980 [DC Cir. 1966]. In New York, more specifically, “severance is compelled where the core of each defense is in irreconcilable conflict with the other and where there is a significant danger, as both defenses are portrayed to the trial court, that the conflict alone would lead the jury to infer defendant’s guilt.” Mahboubian, 74 NY2d 174, 184.

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