People v. Boop

Decision Date13 June 2014
Citation987 N.Y.S.2d 527,2014 N.Y. Slip Op. 04296,118 A.D.3d 1273
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Aaron M. BOOP, Defendant–Appellant.
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Timothy P. Donaher, Public Defender, Rochester (James Eckert of Counsel), for DefendantAppellant.

Sandra Doorley, District Attorney, Rochester (Matthew Dunham of Counsel), for Respondent.

PRESENT: SMITH, J.P., FAHEY, PERADOTTO, SCONIERS AND VALENTINO, JJ.

MEMORANDUM:

Defendant appeals from a judgment convicting him upon a jury verdict of, inter alia, two counts each of vehicular manslaughter in the first degree (Penal Law § 125.13[1], [2][b] ) and driving while intoxicated (Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1192[2], [3] ). The charges arose from an incident in which defendant, while in an intoxicated condition, drove a pickup truck that went off of the road and struck a tree, causing the death of the front seat passenger.

Defendant failed to object when the prosecutor elicited testimony from a deputy sheriff that defendant looked away instead of answering certain questions about the death of the victim, and thus failed to preserve for our review his contention that the prosecutor improperly used his postarrest silence against him at trial ( see People v. Jackson, 108 A.D.3d 1079, 1079, 968 N.Y.S.2d 789,lv. denied22 N.Y.3d 997, 981 N.Y.S.2d 2;People v. Ray, 63 A.D.3d 1705, 1707, 880 N.Y.S.2d 837,lv. denied13 N.Y.3d 838, 890 N.Y.S.2d 454, 918 N.E.2d 969). In any event, any error in the admission of that testimony is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because there is “no reasonable possibility that the error might have contributed to defendant's conviction” ( People v. Crimmins, 36 N.Y.2d 230, 237, 367 N.Y.S.2d 213, 326 N.E.2d 787;see Jackson, 108 A.D.3d at 1079–1080, 968 N.Y.S.2d 789;People v. Murphy, 79 A.D.3d 1451, 1453, 913 N.Y.S.2d 815,lv. denied16 N.Y.3d 862, 923 N.Y.S.2d 424, 947 N.E.2d 1203;People v. Mosby, 239 A.D.2d 938, 938–939, 659 N.Y.S.2d 610,lv. denied90 N.Y.2d 942, 664 N.Y.S.2d 760, 687 N.E.2d 657).

Defendant further contends that County Court erred in admitting in evidence photographs of the tree that the vehicle struck, because flowers had been laid at the base of the tree. Defendant contends that the photographs were an improper appeal to the emotions of the jurors because the flowers constituted a “shrine” to the victim. Contrary to the contention of the People, we conclude that defendant preserved his contention for our review. Defense counsel objected to the photographs, noted the presence of the flowers, and argued that defendant would be prejudiced by the admission of the photographs in evidence. Consequently, the issue is preserved for our review because “the court ‘was aware of, and expressly decided, the [issue] raised on appeal’ ( People v. Collins, 106 A.D.3d 1544, 1546, 964 N.Y.S.2d 393,lv. denied21 N.Y.3d 1072, 974 N.Y.S.2d 321, 997 N.E.2d 146, quoting People v. Hawkins, 11 N.Y.3d 484, 493, 872 N.Y.S.2d 395, 900 N.E.2d 946;see People v. Roberts, 110 A.D.3d 1466, 1467–1468, 972 N.Y.S.2d 784;People v. Duncan, 177 A.D.2d 187, 190–191, 582 N.Y.S.2d 847,lv. denied79 N.Y.2d 1048, 584 N.Y.S.2d 1016, 596 N.E.2d 414). We nevertheless reject defendant's contention on the merits. “The general rule is stated in People v. Pobliner, 32 N.Y.2d 356, 369, 345 N.Y.S.2d 482, 298 N.E.2d 637[,rearg. denied33 N.Y.2d 657, 348 N.Y.S.2d 1030, 303 N.E.2d 710,cert. denied416 U.S. 905, 94 S.Ct. 1609, 40 L.Ed.2d 110];see also People v. Stevens, 76 N.Y.2d 833, 560 N.Y.S.2d 119, 559 N.E.2d 1278: photographs are admissible if they tend ‘to prove or disprove a disputed or material issue, to illustrate or elucidate other relevant evidence, or to corroborate or disprove some other evidence offered or to be offered.’ They should be excluded ‘only if [their] sole purpose is to arouse the emotions of the jury and to prejudice the defendant ( People v. Wood, 79 N.Y.2d 958, 960, 582 N.Y.S.2d 992, 591 N.E.2d 1178;see People v. Lawson, 114 A.D.3d 962, 963, 980 N.Y.S.2d 586). Here, we agree with the People that the sole purpose of the evidence was not to arouse the emotions of the jury. To the contrary, the photographs established the relative positions of the tree and the roadway, the visibility of the tree, and the straight nature of the roadway, all of which were relevant to the jury's factual determinations, including whether defendant was driving while in an intoxicated condition.

Defendant did not object when the court directed the prosecutor to turn off the overhead projector upon which certain evidence was displayed to the members of the public seated in the courtroom, and thus failed to preserve for our review his contention that the court thereby closed the courtroom in violation of defendant's right to a public trial ( see People v. George, 20 N.Y.3d 75, 80–81, 955 N.Y.S.2d 846, 979 N.E.2d 1173,cert. denied––– U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 1736, 185 L.Ed.2d 796;People v. Spears, 94 A.D.3d 498, 500, 941 N.Y.S.2d 500,lv. denied19 N.Y.3d 1001, 951 N.Y.S.2d 477, 975 N.E.2d 923). In any event, defendant's right to a public trial was not violated because the record reflects that a laptop computer screen was still visible to the members of the public seated in the courtroom after the overhead projector was turned off. Contrary to defendant's further contention, we conclude that “the court's efforts to prevent disruption in the courtroom during [the Medical Examiner]'s sensitive testimony provides no basis upon which to upset defendant's conviction” ( People v. Glover, 60 N.Y.2d 783, 785, 469 N.Y.S.2d 677, 457 N.E.2d 783,cert. denied466 U.S. 975, 104 S.Ct. 2353, 80 L.Ed.2d 825;see People v. Chase, 265 A.D.2d 844, 844, 695 N.Y.S.2d 792,lv. denied94 N.Y.2d 902, 707 N.Y.S.2d 386, 728 N.E.2d 985).

Defendant further contends that the court prevented him from presenting evidence in his own behalf, and thereby violated his right to present a defense, when it refused to allow defense counsel to cross-examine the Medical Examiner with respect to whether the victim could have sustained certain injuries while moving within the vehicle. We reject that contention, as well as defendant's further contention that the court's ruling constituted an abuse of discretion. There was an insufficient foundation for defense counsel's line of questioning, and thus the testimony that defense counsel sought to elicit from the Medical Examiner “would have been speculative and misleading” ( People v. Banks, 33 A.D.3d 385, 385, 822 N.Y.S.2d 504,lv. denied7 N.Y.3d 923, 827 N.Y.S.2d 692, 860 N.E.2d 994;see People v. Frazier, 233 A.D.2d 896, 897, 649 N.Y.S.2d 542;see also People v. Walker, 223 A.D.2d 414, 415, 636...

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    ...plaintiff's conjecture, is pure speculation and is excludable in all events under F.R.E. 403. See, e.g., People v. Boop,118 A.D.3d 1273, 1275, 987 N.Y.S.2d 527 (4th Dep't 2014)(trial court was correct to exclude testimony of the Medical Examiner “with respect to whether the victim could hav......
  • People v. Smith
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    ...preserved for our review (see People v. Thomas , 169 A.D.3d 1451, 1451, 92 N.Y.S.3d 818 [4th Dept. 2019] ; People v. Boop , 118 A.D.3d 1273, 1273, 987 N.Y.S.2d 527 [4th Dept. 2014], lv denied 24 N.Y.3d 1082, 1 N.Y.S.3d 9, 25 N.E.3d 346 [2014] ), and in any event lacks merit. Although as a g......
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