People v. Hamilton

Decision Date03 June 1986
Citation502 N.Y.S.2d 747,121 A.D.2d 176
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Anthony HAMILTON, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

J.T. McEntee, Ridgewood, for respondent.

C.R. Hauptfuhrer, New York City, for defendant-appellant.



Judgment, Supreme Court, Bronx County (Elbert Hinkson, J.), rendered April 22, 1985, convicting the defendant after a jury trial of robbery in the first degree, and sentencing him to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of four to twelve years, reversed, on the law and as a matter of discretion in the interest of justice, and the case is remanded for a new trial.

The defendant was convicted after a jury trial of robbery in the first degree, and sentenced to an indeterminate term of imprisonment of four to twelve years. The testimony in this brief trial may be quickly summarized.

The complaining witness, Jeffrey McQuilla, testified that shortly after midnight on April 26, 1984, while returning home after completing a carpentry job, he was approached by three men, two of whom threatened him with a knife, and who took from him $50.00, money earned that day, as well as a circular saw. He identified the defendant as one of the three participants in the robbery, and further testified that he had identified the defendant in a lineup conducted about 5:00 P.M. on the same day, April 26. A police officer testified that he arrested the defendant on April 26 after an investigation, arranged a lineup, identified a photograph of the lineup, and pointed out the position in the lineup occupied by the defendant.

Testifying in his own behalf, the defendant stated that at the time described by the complaining witness he was home with his wife, three children, and a young woman friend of the family who stayed with them from time to time and occasionally acted as a babysitter for the children. He testified that he had returned home at 9:00 P.M. on April 25, had gone to bed with his wife around 11:00 P.M. and watched "Hawaii 5-0" on his television set, which program came on at about midnight, and that he fell asleep while the program was still on.

Twana Waiters testified that she had been staying at defendant's home for some days, that he had come home between 9:00 and 9:30 P.M., and that defendant had remained home with his wife, children, and the witness for the rest of the night.

Although the evidence was sufficient to support the jury's verdict, we have concluded that the conviction must be reversed and the case remanded for a new trial because the fundamental fairness of the trial was severely impaired by repetitive improper prosecutorial trial tactics.

In his opening statement, after a brief outline of the event, the prosecutor went on to say:

Now, you're going to hear from Jeffrey McQuilla, you're going to hear him tell you what happened to him. But, what's also important here too, is the fact that you're going to hear from an officer Pablo Rosa, who arrests, based upon an investigation--now, an investigation is composed of hearsay, so you can't hear that, but based upon an investigation Anthony Hamilton was arrested and he was taken to the precinct.

The testimony of Officer Rosa was, of course, not "important", since, as indicated in the above summary, it did not contribute any probative evidence whatever linking the defendant to the crime charged. What was clearly "important" to the trial assistant was to use the opening as a vehicle for assuring jurors who might be hesitant to convict on the basis of an identification by a single witness that there was other evidence connecting the defendant with the crime, although the details of that evidence, because of a legal rule, could not be presented to them. This obvious effort to convey to the jury that there was information linking the defendant to the crime in addition to that which the jury had the right to consider was grossly improper. Although not objected to, the obvious potential of what the trial assistant said to influence unfairly the outcome of the trial requires us to reach the issue in the interest of justice.

In some ways even more disturbing is an unusual tactic pursued by the trial assistant during an extended part of his cross-examination of the defendant. Taking advantage of an inadvertent error by defense counsel in referring to the date of the robbery, the trial assistant cross-examined the defendant aggressively, at length, and in a sarcastic and demeaning manner on the basis of the literal meaning of an answer that obviously was not the intended meaning, and could not conceivably have been the intended meaning.

In a preliminary question on direct examination, referring to the testimony of the complaining witness with regard to a robbery occurring "on the night of April 26, 1984", defense counsel asked the defendant whether he remembered that night. Responding to that which the question was clearly intended to elicit, the defendant testified that he was at home on that...

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7 cases
  • People v. Perez
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • 9 Febrero 1987
    ...had two, rather than one, prior adjudications. The prosecutor's actions were similar to those condemned in People v. Hamilton, 121 A.D.2d 176, 179, 502 N.Y.S.2d 747, wherein the defendant misstated an alibi date, and the prosecutor intentionally took advantage of the defendant's inadvertent......
  • People v. Jackson
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • 12 Septiembre 1988, to reach them in the interest of justice and to reverse ( People v. Ortiz, 125 A.D.2d 502, 509 N.Y.S.2d 418; People v. Hamilton, 121 A.D.2d 176, 502 N.Y.S.2d 747). The prosecutor attempted to denigrate the defendant's testimony by stating that the defendant's version of the facts was ......
  • People v. Walker
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • 27 Julio 1995
    ...v. Malone, 173 A.D.2d 160, 161, 569 N.Y.S.2d 69, lv. denied 78 N.Y.2d 969, 574 N.Y.S.2d 949, 580 N.E.2d 421; People v. Hamilton, 121 A.D.2d 176, 177-178, 502 N.Y.S.2d 747). In this case the only issue at trial was the identification of defendant (see, People v. Caserta, 19 N.Y.2d 18, 21, 27......
  • People v. Robinson
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • 15 Marzo 1993 the exercise of our interest of justice jurisdiction (see, People v. Ortiz, 125 A.D.2d 502, 509 N.Y.S.2d 418; People v. Hamilton, 121 A.D.2d 176, 502 N.Y.S.2d 747). We reverse and order a new Beginning with the opening statement, the prosecutor engaged in a series of improper remarks and......
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