People v. Francabandera

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtGABRIELLI; BREITEL
Citation310 N.E.2d 292,33 N.Y.2d 429,354 N.Y.S.2d 609
Parties, 310 N.E.2d 292 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Leonard FRANCABANDERA, Appellant.
Decision Date28 March 1974

Page 609

354 N.Y.S.2d 609
33 N.Y.2d 429, 310 N.E.2d 292
The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent,
v.
Leonard FRANCABANDERA, Appellant.
Court of Appeals of New York.
March 28, 1974.

[33 N.Y.2d 430]

Page 610

[310 N.E.2d 293] Stephen N. Shapiro, East Meadow, James J. McDonough and Matthew Muraskin, Mineola, for appellant.

[33 N.Y.2d 431] William Cahn, Dist. Atty. (Henry P. DeVine, Mineola, of counsel), for respondent.

[33 N.Y.2d 432] GABRIELLI, Judge.

The novel question posed in this case is whether defendant, suffering from retrograde amnesia so as to be unable to recall the events surrounding the crimes with which he is charged, is an 'incapacitated person' within the meaning of CPL 730.10 (subd. 1), Consol.Laws, c. 11--A, so as to be unfit to stand trial as the result of a mental defect which, he argues, deprives him of the capacity to assist in his own defense; and also whether the ruling that he is fit to stand trial which induced a guilty plea to a reduced charge, renders that plea involuntary thereby denying him due process and equal protection. He further argues that the indictment should be dismissed.

Defendant was indicted for attempted murder, reckless endangerment and possession of a dangerous weapon based on events occurring on June 15, 1971 in North Massapequa, New York. Evidence possessed

Page 611

by the District Attorney, consisting of civilian and police eyewitness descriptions of the event together with photographs, is to the effect that defendant, who appeared intoxicated, went to his car, withdrew a shotgun, and commenced firing at bystanders; he then returned to his car and withdrew a rifle which he fired at police as they arrived on the scene. At this point defendant was standing in a doorway and, in response to police demands to drop his weapon, he fired again this time blowing the windshield out of a police cruiser. The police officers then opened fire and one of the bullets struck defendant in the left eye and exited through his left ear. This ended the affray and, perhaps miraculously, left defendant with partial blindness, partial deafness, and the inability to recall anything which occurred after he was cleaning a gun at home and before he woke up in the hospital. The People concede that this amnesia is genuine. 1

Defendant moved for a determination whether he was fit to proceed to trial. CPL 730.10 (subd. 1) provides that: "Incapacitated person' means a defendant who as a result of mental disease or defect lacks capacity to understand the proceedings against him or to assist in his own defense.' Following appropriate[33 N.Y.2d 433] examinations the court found that insofar as defendant's general mental state was concerned he was suffering from no mental disease or defect which would hinder him at trial except for the loss of memory. On this precise branch of the case there is no dispute. It was determined that he understood the charges against him and the question was narrowed to the point with which we are concerned, viz., could defendant assist in his defense if he could not recall the events constituting the charges against him? The court concluded that defendant should stand trial, that the District Attorney should supply defense counsel with all the relevant evidence, and that the safeguards set forth in Wilson v. United States, 129 U.S.App.D.C. 107, 391 F.2d 460, noted subsequently herein, should apply.

Upon the determination that he was fit to stand trial defendant decided to plead guilty to reckless endangerment, first degree, in satisfaction of the charges in the indictment. The court indicated to defendant that his sentence on this plea would not exceed four years. Before accepting the plea the court went to great lengths in laying a foundation to support the voluntariness[310 N.E.2d 294] of the plea. Witness' statements, furnished to the defendant, regarding the shootout were read into the record and photographs of the police vehicle allegedly shot up by defendant were introduced. The court's rationale in doing this was first, to furnish defendant with all available facts and, also, to indicate to him the degree and extent of evidence against him to support the

Page 612

charges in the indictment so that defendant, even though he could not remember the event, would be in no doubt that it happened and that he was the culprit. The court then explained to defendant the various rights he was waiving by foregoing a trial and then explained that 'you can plead guilty without admitting your guilt in a situation that you are placed in as long as you realize that that's what you are doing, that you are admitting your guilt. You are saying I'm guilty not because I remember it but because the evidence that has been presented to me indicates to me that I am guilty and I don't want to run that risk.' Defendant, having had continuing consultations with his attorney and family over an extended period of time, indicated that that was the basis on which he sought to plead whereupon, after several more searching questions by the court, the plea was accepted.

[33 N.Y.2d 434] Defendant's arguments on appeal are correlative. His contention that he was unfit to stand trial as a matter of law under CPL 730.10 (subd. 1) leads to his other contention that, because of the order finding him fit, his guilty plea was forced and therefore involuntary. 2 These points, however, are but branches of the central issue, to wit, whether inability to remember the crucial events renders the defendant unfit to assist in his own defense as that incapacity is contemplated under CPL 730.10 (subd. 1) or under the due process or equal protection clauses; or even, perhaps, under the Sixth Amendment.

First, it would be useful to examine the nature of the plea which, in the context in which it was taken in this case, approaches the Nolo contendere concept operative in the Federal courts. Defendant here could not honestly confess his guilt because of his amnesia, but, nevertheless he found himself in a position, considering the overwhelming evidence against him, where a plea to a lesser charge seemed quite the prudent course. As stated by Mr. Justice White in North Carolina v....

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106 practice notes
  • Morris v. State, No. PD-0240-07.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • November 18, 2009
    ...to comprehend his position or to consult intelligently with counsel in the preparation of his defense."). 41. People v. Francabandera, 33 N.Y.2d 429, 354 N.Y.S.2d 609, 310 N.E.2d 292, 296 (1974); see generally, WAYNE R. LaFAVE, SUBSTANTIVE CRIMINAL LAW 8.1(a) (2d 42. State v. Owens, 248 Kan......
  • People v. Pelchat
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • May 15, 1984
    ...N.Y.2d 491, 462 N.Y.S.2d 417, 448 N.E.2d 1328 People v. Blakley, 34 N.Y.2d 311, 357 N.Y.S.2d 459, 313 N.E.2d 763 People v. Francabandera, 33 N.Y.2d 429, 354 N.Y.S.2d 609, 310 N.E.2d 292 People v. Lynn, 28 N.Y.2d 196, 321 N.Y.S.2d 74, 269 N.E.2d 794, supra see, also, Pitler, NY Crim Prac Und......
  • People v. Thomas
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • May 19, 1980
    ...competency of the defendant to stand trial (People v. Armlin, 37 N.Y.2d 167, 371 N.Y.S.2d 691, 332 N.E.2d 870; People v. Francabandera, 33 N.Y.2d 429, 354 N.Y.S.2d 609, 310 N.E.2d 292), and a defective indictment which does not effectively charge defendant with the commission of a crime (Pe......
  • Westchester Rockland Newspapers, Inc. v. Leggett
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • November 20, 1979
    ...788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824; Denzer, Practice Commentary, McKinney's Cons. Laws of N.Y., Book 11A, CPL 730.10, p. 332; People v. Francabandera, 33 N.Y.2d 429, 436, 354 N.Y.S.2d 609, 614, 310 N.E.2d 292, This of course, is not the same question that the jury may be called upon to decide if the defend......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
106 cases
  • Morris v. State, No. PD-0240-07.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • November 18, 2009
    ...to comprehend his position or to consult intelligently with counsel in the preparation of his defense."). 41. People v. Francabandera, 33 N.Y.2d 429, 354 N.Y.S.2d 609, 310 N.E.2d 292, 296 (1974); see generally, WAYNE R. LaFAVE, SUBSTANTIVE CRIMINAL LAW 8.1(a) (2d 42. State v. Owens, 248 Kan......
  • People v. Pelchat
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • May 15, 1984
    ...N.Y.2d 491, 462 N.Y.S.2d 417, 448 N.E.2d 1328 People v. Blakley, 34 N.Y.2d 311, 357 N.Y.S.2d 459, 313 N.E.2d 763 People v. Francabandera, 33 N.Y.2d 429, 354 N.Y.S.2d 609, 310 N.E.2d 292 People v. Lynn, 28 N.Y.2d 196, 321 N.Y.S.2d 74, 269 N.E.2d 794, supra see, also, Pitler, NY Crim Prac Und......
  • People v. Thomas
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • May 19, 1980
    ...competency of the defendant to stand trial (People v. Armlin, 37 N.Y.2d 167, 371 N.Y.S.2d 691, 332 N.E.2d 870; People v. Francabandera, 33 N.Y.2d 429, 354 N.Y.S.2d 609, 310 N.E.2d 292), and a defective indictment which does not effectively charge defendant with the commission of a crime (Pe......
  • Westchester Rockland Newspapers, Inc. v. Leggett
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • November 20, 1979
    ...788, 4 L.Ed.2d 824; Denzer, Practice Commentary, McKinney's Cons. Laws of N.Y., Book 11A, CPL 730.10, p. 332; People v. Francabandera, 33 N.Y.2d 429, 436, 354 N.Y.S.2d 609, 614, 310 N.E.2d 292, This of course, is not the same question that the jury may be called upon to decide if the defend......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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