People v. Johnson

Citation57 N.Y.2d 969,443 N.E.2d 478,457 N.Y.S.2d 230
Parties, 443 N.E.2d 478 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Robert JOHNSON, Appellant.
Decision Date09 November 1982
CourtNew York Court of Appeals
OPINION OF THE COURT MEMORANDUM.

The order of the Appellate Division, 83 A.D.2d 995, 443 N.Y.S.2d 280, should be affirmed.

It was error to have admitted, over timely and specific objection, the testimony of the victim's companion explicitly bolstering, and the testimony of two police officers implicitly bolstering, the victim's identification of defendant (People v. Trowbridge, 305 N.Y. 471, 113 N.E.2d 841). The People, acknowledging the error, argue that defendant's conviction should be affirmed inasmuch as the error was harmless. We agree.

Harmless error analysis proceeds in two stages. First, "unless the proof of the defendant's guilt, without reference to the error, is overwhelming, there is no occasion for consideration of any doctrine of harmless error" (People v. Crimmins, 36 N.Y.2d 230, 241, 367 N.Y.S.2d 213, 326 N.E.2d 787). Second, as to nonconstitutional error--and the admission of bolstering testimony comes within this classification--for the error to be harmless the appellate court must conclude "that there is [no] significant probability * * * in the particular case that the jury would have acquitted the defendant had it not been for the error or errors which occurred" (People v. Crimmins, 36 N.Y.2d 230, 242, 367 N.Y.S.2d 213, 326 N.E.2d 787, supra; accord People v. Mobley, 56 N.Y.2d 584, 450 N.Y.S.2d 302, 435 N.E.2d 672).

In the present case we conclude that the requirements at both stages have been met. We recognize that the only direct evidence connecting defendant to the commission of the crimes charged was the identification testimony of the victim. Although such a single strand might be insufficient in some instances, in this case the victim's identification was unusually credit-worthy. She first saw her attacker in the street under what she described as "bright" lighting conditions. Then, after she had been dragged into the vestibule of the nearby building where she was sexually assaulted, the light in the vestibule, provided by a fluorescent bulb, was "very good". The assailant was facing her and she looked into his face. She had opportunities observe him over a period of 15 or 20 minutes, while he and his two companions were sexually brutalizing her.

Twenty minutes later ...

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    • United States
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    ...of identity is so strong that there is no serious issue upon the point.” People v. Caserta, 19 N.Y.2d 18, 21 (1966); People v. Johnson, 57 N.Y.2d 969, 970-82 (1982); cf. Zanfordino, 432 N.Y.S.2d at 15 (“Because we cannot say that the evidence of identity is so strong that there is no seriou......
  • People v. Taylor
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    ...is no significant probability that the defendant would have been acquitted had it not been for this testimony (People v. Johnson, 57 N.Y.2d 969, 457 N.Y.S.2d 230, 443 N.E.2d 478). The court's imposition of multiple surcharges, however, was improper (see, Penal Law § 60.35 cf., Penal Law § 7......
  • People v. Holmes
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    • 26 Diciembre 2018
    ...that this error was harmless in the context of this case. "Harmless error analysis proceeds in two stages" ( People v. Johnson, 57 N.Y.2d 969, 970, 457 N.Y.S.2d 230, 443 N.E.2d 478 ). First, "unless the proof of the defendant's guilt, without reference to the error, is overwhelming, there i......
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