People v. Driver

Citation2021 NY Slip Op 51242 (U)
Decision Date16 December 2021
Docket Number2021-15 OR CR
PartiesThe People of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Randall Driver, Appellant.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (New York)

Unpublished Opinion

Richard L. Herzfeld, for appellant.

Orange County District Attorney (Andrew R. Kass of counsel), for respondent.


Appeals from a judgment of the City Court of Newburgh, Orange County (E. Loren Williams, J.), rendered September 23, 2020, and an amended judgment rendered December 9, 2020. The amended judgment convicted defendant, after a nonjury trial, of assault in the third degree, criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, harassment in the second degree, and two counts of sexual misconduct, and imposed sentence.

ORDERED that the appeal from the judgment rendered September 23, 2020 is dismissed as superseded by the amended judgment rendered December 9, 2020, and it is further, ORDERED that the amended judgment of conviction is affirmed.

Defendant was charged in a prosecutor's information with assault in the third degree (Penal Law § 120.00 [1]), criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation (Penal Law § 121.11 [a]), harassment in the second degree (Penal Law § 240.26 [1]), and two counts of sexual misconduct (Penal Law § 130.20 [1], [2]). At a proceeding on March 21, 2017, defendant waived his right to a jury trial and executed a waiver of jury trial form, which the court approved after defendant, in open court, was advised by the court of his right to a jury trial, and after defendant had consulted with counsel. At a proceeding before trial on April 24, 2017, defendant sought to have the court revoke his waiver of a jury trial because he was upset that his counsel had indicated that the case would be dismissed, but it was not dismissed. The court determined that defendant had waived his right to a jury trial and denied his application. After a nonjury trial, defendant was found guilty of all the counts charged in the prosecutor's information.

Defendant's contention, that his waiver of the right to a jury trial is invalid on the ground that the record does not establish that he signed the written waiver in open court, is not preserved for our review (see CPL 470.05 [2]; People v Hill, 164 A.D.3d 1651, 1651 [2018]; People v Brown, 81 A.D.3d 499, 500 [2011]). In any event, that contention lacks merit. Pursuant to New York Constitution article I, § 2, a jury waiver must be "a written instrument signed by the defendant in person in open court before and with the approval of a judge or justice of a court having jurisdiction to try the offense." Criminal Procedure Law section 320.10 (2) similarly provides, in pertinent part, that "[s]uch waiver must be in writing and must be signed by the defendant in person in open court in the presence of the court, and with the approval of the court." Here, the transcript of the proceedings of March 21, 2017 clearly shows that defendant, after inquiry by the court, consented to waive his right to a jury trial in open court and that he was presented with the waiver of jury form to execute. The court approved the signed jury waiver form after defendant had conferred with counsel regarding his waiver of a jury trial. Although the record is silent as to where defendant actually signed the form, even if "the waiver itself [was not] signed in open court, the entire colloquy about the waiver took place in open court, thus rendering the waiver valid" (People v Badden 13 A.D.3d 463, 463 [2004]; see People v Perez, 213 A.D.2d 351, 352 [1995]; People v Perrone-Maple, 66 Misc.3d 142 [A], 2020 NY Slip Op 50164[U] [App Term, 2d Dept 9th & 10th Jud Dists 2020]; cf. People v Davidson, 136 A.D.2d 66, 68-70 [1988]).

Defendant's further contention, that his waiver is invalid on the ground that the City Court did not inquire as to his voluntariness or understanding regarding the waiver of a jury trial, is also unpreserved for our review (see CPL 470.05 [2]; People v McCoy, 174 A.D.3d 1379, 1381 [2019]; People v Hailey, 128 A.D.3d 1415, 1415 [2015]; People v Pelaccio, 159 A.D.2d 734, 735 [1990]) and, in any event, does not warrant reversal. "Although an allocution by the trial judge eliciting defendant's full understanding of the importance of the right being waived would have been better practice, no particular catechism is required to establish the validity of a jury trial waiver" (People v Smith, 6 N.Y.3d 827, 828 [2006]; accord People v Elshabazz, 145 A.D.3d 1528, 1529 [2016]; People v Dixon, 50 A.D.3d 1519, 1520 [2008]).

The court advised defendant that he had a right to a jury trial where six jurors would be selected in addition to two alternate jurors who would listen to the facts in this case and that a determination of his guilt would be made by the jury. Defendant, upon questioning by the court, confirmed that he wanted the court to decide the case even though he had a right to a trial by jury. In view of the foregoing, the court properly accepted defendant's jury waiver (see CPL 320.10 [2]; People v Lamphier, 302 A.D.2d 864 [2003]; People v Buckley, 299 A.D.2d 417 [2002]). Since nothing in the record would have alerted the court to the possibility that defendant was not fully aware of the consequences of waiving a jury trial, no inquiry into defendant's awareness was necessary (see People v Medina, 202 A.D.2d 256, 257 [1994]; People v Burnett, 136 A.D.2d 888 [1988]; People v Dominy, 116 A.D.2d 851, 852 [1986]).

Defendant's contention, that he was deprived of the effective...

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