People v. Arthur

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New York)
Citation175 Misc.2d 742,673 N.Y.S.2d 486,1997 WL 853756
Parties, 1998 N.Y. Slip Op. 98,108 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Plaintiff, v. Corey ARTHUR and Montoun Hart, Defendants.
Decision Date14 November 1997

Anthony Ricco, Goltzer & Adler, New York City (George R. Goltzer, of counsel), Marlon G. Kirton, New York City, for Corey Arthur, defendant.

Robert M. Morgenthau, District Attorney, New York County (Eugene R. Hurley, III, Karin Dell'Antonia and Jeanne Olivo of counsel), for plaintiff.

MARCY L. KAHN, Justice.

Defendant Corey Arthur is charged with murder in the first degree (PL § 125.27 [1] [a] [vii]) and other crimes. 1 He has moved for an order declaring that a heightened standard of care and scrutiny be applied to all phases of this case and for an order compelling discovery of various items. The People oppose both motions, except to the extent that they have already provided discovery or are in the process of doing so. The People have also cross-moved for statutory reciprocal discovery and for a protective order delaying disclosure of certain portions of the applications underlying search warrants issued in this case. 2


Defendant and his co-defendant, Montoun Hart, are each charged with murder in the second degree (PL § 125.25[3]) and two counts of robbery in the first degree (PL § 160.15[2], [3]). Defendant Arthur is also charged with an additional count of murder in the second degree (PL § 125.25[1]) and, as noted, murder in the first degree. The People contend that on May 30, 1997, defendants caused the death of Jonathan Levin while engaged in the attempted commission and commission of the crime of robbery. Specifically, they allege that defendants tied up Jonathan Levin in his apartment at 205 Columbus Avenue with tape, cut and stabbed him with a sharp instrument, and forcibly seized from him a Chase Manhattan Bank ATM card and PIN number. According to the People, defendant Arthur killed Jonathan Levin by shooting him in the head with a pistol. The People allege that the ATM card was subsequently used to withdraw funds from Jonathan Levin's account at Chase Manhattan Bank, which moneys defendants divided between them.


Defendant was arrested on June 7, 1997 and arraigned on the indictment on July 7, 1997. As conceded by the defense, the People have accorded defendant extensive discovery in this case, commencing even prior to defendant's arraignment on the indictment, and in many respects exceeding statutory requirements, including some information bearing on mitigation. 3

Specifically, in response to a defense request, the People vouchered numerous items recovered as a result of the execution of a warrant to search the crime scene (the apartment of Jonathan Levin), and subsequently afforded the defense access to the apartment. On June 26, 1997, the People furnished the defense with a copy of the voluntary disclosure form ("VDF") pertaining to co-defendant Hart, which provided CPL § 710.30 notice of the contents of alleged statements made by Hart and identification procedures pertaining to Hart, a list of numerous items allegedly obtained from defendants and from the crime scene, and information concerning identification and fingerprint evidence. Discovery of defendant's own statements to the police was afforded on June 27, in advance of his arraignment on the indictment. Additionally, on July 3, 1997, still prior to arraignment, the People furnished defendant with the VDF in his case which contained notices pursuant to CPL § 710.30, as well as notice of additional items obtained from defendants and from the crime scene. At defendant's July 7 arraignment, the People provided defendant with numerous forensic reports. On July 18, the People served additional statement notice pertaining to each defendant.

On July 22, 1997, the People responded to defendant's June 20 discovery demand, providing numerous police reports, additional forensic reports, a list of additional property omitted from the VDFs, a list of the names, addresses and birth dates of witnesses claiming to have seen Jonathan Levin the day after the alleged murder, and a list of numerous police personnel participating in the investigation. They also provided the defense with opportunities to inspect evidence they had obtained from Chase Manhattan and NYNEX, as well as numerous items concerning, inter alia, Jonathan Levin, the high school at which he had taught defendant, defendant's own high school records, and the high school records of four other students.

The People subsequently turned over to the defense all documents which they intend to introduce at trial. Included among these materials were all documents recovered from the crime scene which mention either of the defendants or are otherwise linked to either defendant, as well as all documents referencing Jonathan Levin's alleged purchase, acquisition or use of controlled substances. They have also made available to defendant any item recovered from any premises or automobile occupied by either defendant which mentions Jonathan Levin or is otherwise linked to him. The People have also provided 911 tapes and other audiotapes and videotapes to defendant.

What is at issue on this motion is defendant's entitlement to various other items. The People have refused to disclose prior to trial the names, addresses, and dates of birth of their witnesses, 4 any statements they have made, any impeaching evidence as to those witnesses, police reports, statements made by defendant to individuals other than law enforcement personnel, items of a personal nature belonging to Jonathan Levin which they claim are irrelevant to the case, and any additional evidence of a mitigating nature which they claim would pertain only to a capital sentencing proceeding, contending that defendant has failed to establish entitlement to these materials under CPL §§ 240.20, 240.40, or any other provision of law. 5 In response to defendant's contention that certain of these items constitute Brady material which must be disclosed prior to trial, they assert that Brady material need not be disclosed prior to trial and that evidence of a mitigating nature does not constitute Brady material.

Much of the People's opposition to defendant's demands relates solely to the timing of, and not defendant's entitlement to, discovery. They argue that a heightened due process standard applies only at the sentencing proceeding of a capital case and not at the pretrial or trial stages. They also maintain that in most instances, disclosure shortly before trial would be adequate, even as to potential Brady material, and with respect to evidence relating to mitigation, they contend that it need not be turned over until after conviction and prior to the sentencing proceeding, citing CPL § 400.27(14). They further argue that impeachment material constitutes Rosario, rather than Brady, material and is, therefore, subject to disclosure pursuant to CPL § 240.45, and that the rule set forth in Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 92 S.Ct. 763, 31 L.Ed.2d 104 (1972), entitles defendant to disclosure, as opposed to discovery.


The parties agree that a heightened standard of due process pertains in capital cases. Defendant asserts that this standard should be applied at all stages of a capital case, based upon legislative intent, state constitutional law, decisions rendered under the predecessor statute, and federal constitutional law. The People, on the other hand, argue that a heightened standard of due process applies only at a capital sentencing proceeding and not at the pretrial or trial stages, citing California v. Ramos, 463 U.S. 992, 998-99, 103 S.Ct. 3446, 3452, 77 L.Ed.2d 1171 (1983), and other cases. They also note that numerous courts of coordinate jurisdiction in this state have rejected the application of heightened due process in a capital case prior to the sentencing proceeding.

Defendant's initial arguments merit only brief discussion. While the Legislature, in reinstating the death penalty, enacted special protections for capital defendants, e.g., specially trained and appointed counsel (Jud.L. § 35-b), additional time for pretrial motions (CPL § 250.40[3]), individual voir dire of prospective jurors (CPL § 270.16), and direct appeals as of right to the Court of Appeals (CPL § 450.80[3]), there is no specific legislative provision requiring a trial court to apply heightened scrutiny or more exacting substantive standards to every aspect of a capital case. The Legislature's express amendment of certain provisions of existing law, taken together with its failure to modify other provisions creates an inference of a legislative intent to leave such existing provisions intact. (McKinney's Statutes § 240; see People v. Heard, N.Y.L.J., May 17, 1996, at 26, col. 6 [Sup.Ct., N.Y.Co.1996] ).

To the extent that defendant seeks an interpretation of the New York State Constitution as requiring an expansion of defendant's due process rights during the guilt phase, this court is without authority to make such a determination. A trial court is constrained not to announce new, non-interpretative, policy-driven constructions of the State Constitution, for to do so would impinge upon "the policy and rule-making function traditionally perceived as the exclusive domain of the Court of Appeals." (People v. Keta, 165 A.D.2d 172, 177-178, 567 N.Y.S.2d 738 [2d Dept.1991], rev'd on other grounds sub. nom. People v. Scott, 79 N.Y.2d 474, 583 N.Y.S.2d 920, 593 N.E.2d 1328 [1992]; see also Hope v. Perales, 150 Misc.2d 985, 1000, 571 N.Y.S.2d 972 [Sup.Ct., N.Y.Co.1991] [Ciparik, J.], aff'd on other grounds, 189 A.D.2d 287, 595 N.Y.S.2d 948 [1st Dept.1993], rev'd on other grounds, 83 N.Y.2d 563, 611 N.Y.S.2d 811, 634 N.E.2d 183 [1994] ).

Furthermore, the Court of Appeals' decisions upon which defendant relies which...

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    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
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