Tag: prosecutor misconduct

This appeal comes from the Monroe County Supreme Court – a jury convicted the defendant of attempted rape and attempted criminal sexual act in the first and second degree. The judgement is unanimously reversed on the law and “as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice.” A new trial is granted.

“[A]lthough defendant failed to preserve his contention for our review with respect to all but one alleged instance of prosecutorial misconduct”  The court exercises its discretion in reviewing the matter and exercises its discretion (in the interests of justice) in fashioning a remedy. The Court recited what the prosecutor did that afforded the Defendant a new trial:

On summation, the prosecutor repeatedly invoked a “safe streets” argument (see People v Tolliver, 267 AD2d 1007, 1007 [1999], lv denied 94 NY2d 908 [2000]), even after Supreme Court sustained defense counsel’s objection to the prosecutor’s use of that argument; denigrated the defense by calling defense counsel’s arguments “garbage,” “smoke and mirrors,” and “nonsense” intended to distract the juror’s focus from the “atrocious acts” that defendant committed against the victim (see People v Morgan, 111 AD3d 1254, 1255 [2013]; People v Spann, 82 AD3d 1013, 1015 [2011]; People v Brown, 26 AD3d 392, 393 [2006]); improperly characterized the defense as being based on a “big conspiracy” against defendant by the prosecutor and the People’s witnesses (see People v Cowan, 111 AD2d 343, 345 [1985], lv denied 65 NY2d 978 [1985]); and denigrated the fact that defendant had elected to invoke his constitutional right to a trial (see People v Rivera, 116 AD2d 371, 373 [1986]). Perhaps most egregiously, given that “the potential danger posed to defendant when DNA evidence is presented as dispositive of guilt is by now obvious,” the prosecutor engaged in misconduct when she mischaracterized and overstated the probative value of the DNA evidence in this case (People v Wright, 25 NY3d 769, 783 [2015]).

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In Chemung County, New York, ” Defendant was charged by indictment with assault in the second degree stemming from an incident in July 2012 where he allegedly ran over his girlfriend, Deborah Meyer, with a pickup truck.” Pp. 1.

At issue was the “County Court [ruling] that the witness could not speculate as to whom defendant had directed his comment, and the witness’s testimony in that regard was stricken from the record.” Pp. 2. Nonetheless, the People twice made improper references to the stricken testimony and twice those references went without objection from defense counsel or curative instructions from the court.” Id.

Rule: “To prevail on his ineffective assistance of counsel claim on the basis of [a] single failure to object, defendant must show both that the objection omitted by trial counsel is a winning argument…and that the objection was one that no reasonable defense lawyer, in the context of the trial, could have thought to be ‘not worth raising.'” People v. Brown, 17 NY3d 742, 743-744 (2011), quoting People v. Turner, 5 NY3d 476, 481 (2005)). “In our view, defendant has met his burden of demonstrating a lack of strategic or other legitimate reason for his defense lawyer’s failure to object.” Pp. 2 (citing People v. Rivera, 71 NY2d 705, 709 (1988)).

Under the circumstances, the Court found “that no reasonable defense lawyer could have thought that such an objection would not have been worth making,” and , therefore, this constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. Pp. 3  Judgment is reversed and the matter is remitted for a new trial.

The case is People v. Ramsey, 106652, NYLJ 1202744267116, at 1 (App. Div., 3rd, Decided December 3, 2015)