People v. Friedman

CourtNew York Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtGABRIELLI; BREITEL
Citation384 N.Y.S.2d 408,39 N.Y.2d 463,348 N.E.2d 883
Decision Date06 May 1976
Parties, 348 N.E.2d 883 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Howard FRIEDMAN, Appellant.

Robert T. Greig, New York City, for appellant.

Mario Merola, Dist. Atty. (Ronny Greenwald Siegal, New York City, of counsel), for respondent.


Defendant was indicted for the crime of murder (Penal Law, § 125.25) in connection with the savage beating of a two-year-old child, Shari Canal, the daughter of his paramour. The child had been left alone with the defendant in the mother's apartment for a short period of time during which the mother went to the basement laundry. Upon her return to the apartment, the lifeless body of the child was discovered and the subsequent autopsy revealed that the child had been beaten to death.

Defendant's conviction, upon his plea of guilty, for the crime of manslaughter in the first degree (Penal Law, § 125.20, subd. 1) was affirmed unanimously by the Appellate Division. In this court, he claims, as grounds for reversal of his conviction, that his plea was not knowing and voluntary and that the Trial Judge erred in not conducting a hearing regarding his application to withdraw the guilty plea. We hold the conviction to be valid.

At the conclusion of the People's case-in-chief, some three weeks after the trial had begun, during which 16 witnesses had testified and evidence was produced via certain of defendant's friends and acquaintances of numerous admissions made by him evidencing guilt, the defendant decided to enter a plea of guilty to the crime of manslaughter in the first degree. This was first announced by defendant's trial counsel who stated that he, his associate counsel and the defendant had conferred and that the plea was the defendant's expressed wish. At this point the Trial Judge fully and satisfactorily queried the defendant who stated unequivocally that it was his desire to plead guilty and that he did so voluntarily. The court recited to the defendant the circumstances of the crime to which the defendant assented without then actually or specifically admitting that he had committed the criminal act. The following colloquy occurred between the Trial Judge and the defendant:

'The Court: Under the circumstances you are pleading guilty to a lesser degree of homicide, that is, manslaughter in the first degree with the knowledge that the sentence to be imposed by the Court on your plea of guilty to manslaughter in the first degree would be considerably less than life imprisonment; you understand that, too?

'The Defendant: Yes, Your Honor.

'The Court: And this is one of the reasons that impels you, after consultation with both your lawyers to plead guilty to manslaughter in the first degree; is that so, Mr. Friedman?

'The Defendant: Yes.'

At the time of sentencing, the defendant moved to withdraw his plea on the ground that he had been under the influence of sodium amytal, a 'truth serum', which had been administered to him during the course of a psychiatric examination conducted by a psychiatrist he had retained, two days prior to the entry of his plea. Defendant's attorney stated that the defendant was ill during the evening of the examination and the following morning on the way to court. He further indicated, however, that on the next morning, the day the plea was entered, defendant appeared well to him, and that he had been advised by the examining psychiatrist that it was unlikely that the defendant would still be under the influence of the drug at the time of the plea, two days after the drug was administered. The court denied the motion to withdraw the plea after first inquiring of defendant if he wished to make any statement, to which the latter replied that he was going to prison 'because people got on the stand and lied.'

The plea in this case, tendered upon the completion of the People's case-in-chief during which strong evidence of the defendant's guilt was presented, falls squarely within the type of plea sanctioned in North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 37, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162 (see, also, People v. Francabandera, 33 N.Y.2d 429, 434, 354 N.Y.S.2d 609, 612, 310 N.E.2d 292, 294). In that case, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a plea accompanied by a refusal to admit commission of a criminal act may be accepted 'when * * * a defendant intelligently concludes that his interests require entry of a guilty plea and the record before the judge contains strong evidence of actual guilt.' A fair view of the People's evidence demonstrates that the numerous admissions made by defendant as testified to by the People's witnesses, as well as the uncontroverted fact that the defendant was the only person with the child at the time the fatal injuries were suffered, amounted to substantial evidence of the...

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35 cases
  • People v. Crawford
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • May 8, 2013
    ...the documents cited in support of his motion were insufficient to warrant withdrawal of his plea or a hearing ( see People v. Friedman, 39 N.Y.2d 463, 467, 384 N.Y.S.2d 408, 348 N.E.2d 883;People v. Douglas, 83 A.D.3d 1092, 1093, 921 N.Y.S.2d 324;People v. Dazzo, 92 A.D.3d 796, 796, 938 N.Y......
  • People v. Ramos
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • October 26, 1976
    ...before a jury and that defendant, unhappy with the tenor of the trial, elected to plead guilty and abort the trial. (People v. Friedman, 39 N.Y.2d 463, 467, 384 N.Y.S.2d 408, 410, 348 N.E.2d 883, 885.) Defendant even now can point to no facts which make the plea unjust. (People v. Nixon, 21......
  • People v. Bates
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • April 7, 2011
    ...). In any event, defendant's Alford plea represents “a rational choice among the alternatives available to him” ( People v. Friedman, 39 N.Y.2d 463, 466, 384 N.Y.S.2d 408, 348 N.E.2d 883 [1976] ) and a voluntary decision to avoid the risks of trial and the possibility of consecutive sentenc......
  • People v. Miller
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • March 31, 1998
    ...31, 38 n. 10, 91 S.Ct. at 164, 167 n. 10; cf., People v. Lopez, 71 N.Y.2d 662, 666, 529 N.Y.S.2d 465, 525 N.E.2d 5; People v. Friedman, 39 N.Y.2d 463, 384 N.Y.S.2d 408, 348 N.E.2d 883). But such a plea may still be upheld as consistent with constitutional In North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.......
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