People v. Brown

Citation2015 N.Y. Slip Op. 04860,11 N.Y.S.3d 616,129 A.D.3d 854
Decision Date10 June 2015
Docket Number2010-08049
PartiesThe PEOPLE, etc., respondent, v. Andre S. BROWN, appellant.
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

Lynn W.L. Fahey, New York, N.Y. (Alexis A. Ascher of counsel), for appellant.

Richard A. Brown, District Attorney, Kew Gardens, N.Y. (John M. Castellano, Nicoletta J. Caferri, Nancy Fitzpatrick Talcott, and Johnnette Traill of counsel), for respondent.

REINALDO E. RIVERA, J.P., L. PRISCILLA HALL, LEONARD B. AUSTIN and JEFFREY A. COHEN, JJ.

Opinion

Appeal by the defendant from a judgment of the Supreme Court, Queens County (Hollie, J.), rendered August 9, 2010, convicting him of robbery in the first degree, robbery in the second degree (two counts), criminal possession of stolen property in the fifth degree, and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree, upon a jury verdict, and imposing sentence. The appeal brings up for review the denial, after a hearing (Kron, J.), of those branches of the defendant's omnibus motion which were to suppress his statements to law enforcement officials and identification evidence.

ORDERED that the judgment is reversed, on the law, and a new trial is ordered.

On appeal, the defendant contends that police officers did not have reasonable suspicion to justify their initial stop and detention of him, and that the Supreme Court should have suppressed his statements to law enforcement officials and identification evidence as fruits of that unlawful stop. Contrary to the defendant's contentions, the record supports the Supreme Court's determination that his stop and detention were based on reasonable suspicion (see People v. Moore, 6 N.Y.3d 496, 498–499, 814 N.Y.S.2d 567, 847 N.E.2d 1141 ; People v. Hollman, 79 N.Y.2d 181, 184–185, 581 N.Y.S.2d 619, 590 N.E.2d 204 ; People v. De Bour, 40 N.Y.2d 210, 223, 386 N.Y.S.2d 375, 352 N.E.2d 562 ). Police officers received information regarding a robbery committed by two individuals. The defendant partially matched the general description of one of the perpetrators provided by the complainant, was seen walking away from railroad tracks where a police sergeant and other police officers had just been chasing two suspects, and was within several blocks of the scene of the subject robbery approximately 10 minutes after the crime had taken place. Accordingly, there was reasonable suspicion to stop and detain the defendant for a few minutes until a sergeant arrived from around the corner and identified the defendant as one of the suspects he had been pursuing on the railroad tracks (see People v. Lemmo, 18 A.D.3d 885, 885–886, 795 N.Y.S.2d 466 ; People v. Harris, 245 A.D.2d 302, 670 N.Y.S.2d 117 ). Since the officers' actions were supported by reasonable suspicion, the Supreme Court properly denied those branches of the defendant's omnibus motion, made on the ground that his initial stop and detention were unlawful, which were to suppress the statements he spontaneously made to the detaining officer prior to the arrival of the sergeant (see People v. Jackson, 249 A.D.2d 327, 328, 670 N.Y.S.2d 895 ), and a subsequent showup identification by the complainant (see People v. McCoy, 30 A.D.3d 441, 442, 817 N.Y.S.2d 337 ).

In the course of jury selection, the defendant exercised several peremptory challenges to prospective jurors, one of which was contested by the People on the ground that the defendant was attempting to exclude white females from the jury, thus raising what is commonly known as a reverse-Batson challenge (see Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 ; People v. Carrington, 105 A.D.3d 970, 970, 964 N.Y.S.2d 546 ; see generally People v. Kern, 75 N.Y.2d 638, 649–650, 555 N.Y.S.2d 647, 554 N.E.2d 1235 ). The Supreme Court properly sustained the People's objection in this regard. Contrary to the defendant's contentions, the record supports the Supreme Court's determination that defense counsel's proffered reasons for challenging the subject prospective juror were pretextual. “ Although not entirely insulated from review, the determination of whether an explanation is merely pretextual is generally a matter for the Trial Judge, whose findings are entitled to great deference” (People v. Jupiter, 210 A.D.2d 431, 434, 620 N.Y.S.2d 426 ; see People v. Hernandez, 75 N.Y.2d 350, 356, 553 N.Y.S.2d 85, 552 N.E.2d 621, affd. 500 U.S. 352, 111 S.Ct. 1859, 114 L.Ed.2d 395 ; People v. Shaheed, 70 A.D.3d 980, 896 N.Y.S.2d 374 ; People v. Bowman, 58 A.D.3d 747, 872 N.Y.S.2d 150 ; People v. Wilson, 278 A.D.2d 519, 717 N.Y.S.2d 920 ). This is particularly true where, as here, the reason for challenging a prospective juror is based upon certain nonverbal responses and reactions of the prospective juror, which the trial court had the opportunity to observe (see People v. Martinez, 58 A.D.3d 754, 755, 872 N.Y.S.2d 159 ; People v. Wilson, 278 A.D.2d at 519, 717 N.Y.S.2d 920 ; People v. Rivera, 220 A.D.2d 782, 783, 633 N.Y.S.2d 331 ). However, [a]lthough a profferedrace[or gender-] neutral explanation for the exclusion of a potential juror need not rise to the level required to challenge a venireperson for ‘cause,’ ... the burden cannot be met by merely claiming good faith and denying discriminatory purpose” (People v. Peart, 197 A.D.2d 599, 600, 602 N.Y.S.2d 424 [citation omitted]; see People v. Hernandez, 75 N.Y.2d at 351, 553 N.Y.S.2d 85, 552 N.E.2d 621 ; People v. Dixon, 202 A.D.2d 12, 17, 615 N.Y.S.2d 904 ). Here, the reason proffered by defense counsel for exercising the peremptory challenge against the subject prospective juror was that, during voir dire, [s]he had her head down the entire time and was kind of looking down through this process,” from which counsel concluded that she was “going to be a wall flower[ ] and just kind[ ] of go with the flow.” This explanation was purely intuitive and based on counsel's subjective impression rather than upon facts adduced at voir dire (see People v. Grier, 261 A.D.2d 555, 556, 690 N.Y.S.2d 648 ; People v. Hewitt, 258 A.D.2d 597, 598, 685 N.Y.S.2d 745 ). To accept the defendant's bare assertion, unsupported by any factual basis, that the prospective juror was neutral and would not be a strong juror for the defense would be, in effect, to accept no reason at all (see People v. Shaheed, 70 A.D.3d at 981, 896 N.Y.S.2d 374 ; People v. Peart, 197 A.D.2d at 600, 602 N.Y.S.2d 424 ). There is nothing in the record to support defense counsel's purported conclusion that this prospective juror—a 68–year–old sales associate who had previously sat on a jury, did not know anyone in law enforcement, and, unlike many of the prospective jurors, had not been the victim of a crime—would be a weak juror for the defense.

The defendant contends that he was deprived of due process by the Supreme Court's refusal to grant him a mistrial when a police witness related the defendant's statement that he did not want to “go back to jail.” We agree that the court improvidently exercised its discretion in admitting the statement, unredacted. Where, as here, the defendant “has not taken the stand or placed his character in issue, the general rule is that the prosecution is prohibited from introducing evidence of his past criminal record” (People v. Blanchard, 83 A.D.2d 905, 905, 442 N.Y.S.2d 140 ; see People v. Mullin, 41 N.Y.2d 475, 393 N.Y.S.2d 938, 362 N.E.2d 571 ; People v. Robbins, 38 N.Y.2d 913, 382 N.Y.S.2d 977, 346 N.E.2d 815 ; Matter of Devon B., 1 A.D.3d 432, 433, 766 N.Y.S.2d 692 ). The word “back,” which could easily have been redacted without materially changing the meaning of the statement, revealed an unspecified past criminal record, causing prejudice without serving any probative purpose (see People v. Crandall, 67 N.Y.2d 111, 117, 500 N.Y.S.2d 635, 491 N.E.2d 1092 ; People v. Blanchard, 83 A.D.2d 905, 906, 442 N.Y.S.2d 140 ). Nevertheless, although the admission of the unredacted statement was improper, under the circumstances of this case (cf. People v. Mullin, 41 N.Y.2d at 480, 393 N.Y.S.2d 938, 362 N.E.2d 571 ), the prejudice to the defendant was not so great as to have warranted a mistrial, or to require reversal on appeal (see People v. Crimmins, 36 N.Y.2d 230, 241–242, 367 N.Y.S.2d 213, 326 N.E.2d 787 ).

However, a new trial is required based on the Supreme Court's failure to comply with CPL 310.30, in accordance with the procedure set forth in People v. O'Rama, 78 N.Y.2d 270, 574 N.Y.S.2d 159, 579 N.E.2d 189. Here, in the second of six jury notes, the jury advised: We have one juror that feels she cannot make a decision based on the evidence presented to us.” Instead of marking the note as an exhibit and reading it aloud on the record to the parties prior to calling in the jury, the court read the note on the record for the first time in front of the jurors, and then immediately responded by issuing a truncated Allen charge (see Allen v. United...

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