People v. Hansen

Citation95 N.Y.2d 227,715 N.Y.S.2d 369,738 N.E.2d 773
Decision Date19 October 2000
CourtNew York Court of Appeals

J. Anthony Jordan, Greenwich, for appellant. Robert M. Winn, District Attorney of Washington County, Fort Edward, for respondent.



Chief Judge KAYE.

In this prosecution for burglary and related charges, the issue is whether a defendant who pleaded guilty forfeited the right to contend that the fact-finding process of the Grand Jury, culminating in an indictment against him, was impaired by the prosecutor's introduction of inadmissible hearsay.

During the Grand Jury presentation, the complainant, Harold Stickney, testified that shortly after midnight his wife awoke him after hearing noises outside their home, and called 911; that he saw defendant on their back porch holding a snow shovel; that he watched as defendant unsuccessfully tried to open the sliding glass door to the house, then kicked it in; and that, after pointing an antique gun at defendant, the two struggled and the police arrived. Washington County Deputy Sheriff Scott Stark testified that, at the scene, he saw Stickney on the ground, and also heard someone running from the house in the snow, whereupon he and his partners chased and apprehended defendant. According to Stark, defendant stated he was on the Stickney property to shovel snow.

Defendant testified on his own behalf before the Grand Jury, admitting a history of alcohol and drug abuse. He claimed that on the night of the incident, he was "all strung out" on prescription medication, felt "extremely paranoid" and wanted to get some fresh air to cool down. Defendant acknowledged going onto the Stickney property, first to the garage and then to the porch, where he picked up a blue shovel that, in the light over the garage, prompted him to hallucinate. Then he saw Harold Stickney holding a gun.

Following this testimony, the prosecutor played a portion of a videotaped television newscast containing first a reporter's lead-in and then an interview with defendant. The reporter's full remarks, about a minute in length, noted that elderly homeowners had thwarted an intruder in an attempted break-in, and that defendant was charged with the crime. The prosecutor played two portions of these remarks—the record does not reveal which portions were actually shown to the grand jurors—before fast-forwarding to defendant's interview. In the interview, defendant claimed to have been on the Stickney property to help them shovel snow.

After playing the videotape, the prosecutor advised the grand jurors that "the only thing we are offering this for, ladies and gentlemen, is the statement made by—that's the basic statement, the statement that he gave." The prosecutor then cross-examined defendant about his conflicting statements. At the conclusion of the proceedings, the prosecutor instructed the grand jurors that "only that portion of the tape where [defendant] is making a statement should be considered by you as evidence. The rest of it should be stricken from your deliberations in this case." Defendant was indicted on charges of first degree burglary, attempted second degree burglary, second degree assault and first degree reckless endangerment.

Defendant sought dismissal of the indictment on the ground that the Grand Jury proceeding was defective because the videotaped remarks amounted to unsworn hearsay that prejudiced him (CPL 210.20, 210.35). The motion court found that the prosecutor had played the reporter's remarks inadvertently, and denied the application, concluding both that the prosecutor submitted the tape for the purpose of showing defendant's contradictory statement and that the reporter's remarks were, in substance, also testified to under oath by the witnesses in the Grand Jury. Defendant thereafter pleaded guilty to one count of attempted first degree burglary and the Appellate Division affirmed, concluding that defendant's plea amounted to a "waiver" of the contention that the videotape was improperly admitted before the Grand Jury. We now affirm.


A plea of guilty, as we have repeatedly observed, generally marks the end of a criminal case, not a gateway to further litigation (People v Taylor, 65 NY2d 1, 5). As a rule, a defendant who in open court admits guilt of an offense charged may not later seek review of claims relating to the deprivation of rights that took place before the plea was entered (see, People v Di Raffaele, 55 NY2d 234, 240

; see also, Tollett v Henderson, 411 US 258, 267). This is so because a defendant's "conviction rests directly on the sufficiency of his plea, not on the legal or constitutional sufficiency of any proceedings which might have led to his conviction after trial" (People v Di Raffaele, supra, at 240). A guilty plea will thus encompass a waiver of specific rights attached to trial, such as the right to a trial by jury and to confrontation, and it will also effect a forfeiture of the right to revive certain claims made prior to the plea.1

A guilty plea does not, however, extinguish every claim on appeal. The limited issues surviving a guilty plea in the main relate either to jurisdictional matters (such as an insufficient accusatory instrument) or to rights of a constitutional dimension that go to the very heart of the process (such as the constitutional speedy trial right, the protection against double jeopardy or a defendant's competency to stand trial) (see, People ex rel. Battista v Christian, 249 NY 314, 318; People v Beattie, 80 NY2d 840, 842; see also, Rosenblatt, Cohen and Brownstein, Criminal Appellate Practice, in Ostertag and Benson, General Practice in New York § 38.8, at 32 [25 West's New York Practice Series, 1998]).2 The critical distinction is between defects implicating the integrity of the process, which may survive a guilty plea, and less fundamental flaws, such as evidentiary or technical matters, which do not.3

Defendant contends that his guilty plea did not "waive" his right to seek dismissal of the indictment on the ground that the prosecutor, by showing portions of the videotaped reporter's remarks, impaired the integrity of the Grand Jury proceeding. Defendant's claim, actually a matter of forfeiture, does not activate a question of jurisdiction. Before a person may be publicly accused of a felony, and required to defend against such charges, the State must persuade a Grand Jury that sufficient legal reasons exist to believe the person guilty (People v Iannone, 45 NY2d 589, 594). That occurred here. An indictment is rendered jurisdictionally defective only if it does not charge the defendant with the commission of a particular crime, by, for example, failing to allege every material element of the crime charged, or alleging acts that do not equal a crime at all (id., at 600). In this case, the Grand Jury returned a valid and sufficient accusatory instrument enabling the court to acquire jurisdiction to try defendant, and requiring him to proceed to trial as to a specific criminal transaction (NY Const, art I, § 6; People ex rel. Battista, supra, 249 NY, at 319; People v Ford, 62 NY2d 275, 281-282).

Additionally, a defendant may not forfeit a claim of a constitutional defect implicating the integrity of the process. Ordinarily, following a defendant's admission of culpability as to the crime charged, a guilty plea does forfeit a claim "that the criminal proceedings preliminary to trial were infected with impropriety and error" (People v Di Raffaele, supra, at 240). As the United States Supreme Court has explained, a guilty plea "renders irrelevant those constitutional violations not logically inconsistent with the valid establishment of factual guilt and which do not stand in the way of conviction, if factual guilt is validly established" (Menna v New York, 423 US 61, 63, n 2,supra). Flaws of an evidentiary or technical nature are thus forfeited by a guilty plea.

Defendant in essence seeks a review of the fact-finding process engaged in by the grand jurors with respect to the videotaped remarks. While his constitutional right to be prosecuted on a jurisdictionally valid indictment survived the guilty plea, his right to challenge this evidence did not (see, People v Sobotker, 61 NY2d 44, 48

[although a constitutional right may survive a guilty plea, a related statutory right is forfeited if it confers more than the...

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  • People v. Fay
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • October 26, 2017
    ...speedy trial right, the protection against double jeopardy or a defendant's competency to stand trial)" ( People v. Hansen, 95 N.Y.2d 227, 230, 715 N.Y.S.2d 369, 738 N.E.2d 773 [2000] ; see e.g. Menna v. New York, 423 U.S. 61, 62, 96 S.Ct. 241, 46 L.Ed.2d 195 [1975] ; People v. Guerrero, 28......
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    ...726 ). Accordingly, defendant is not precluded from raising his constitutional double jeopardy claim on appeal (see People v. Hansen, 95 N.Y.2d 227, 230, 715 N.Y.S.2d 369, 738 N.E.2d 773 [2000] ; People v. Fay, 154 A.D.3d 1178, 1180, 63 N.Y.S.3d 575 [2017], lv denied 30 N.Y.3d 1115, 77 N.Y.......
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