People v. Lancaster

Decision Date18 December 1986
Citation511 N.Y.S.2d 559,69 N.Y.2d 20,503 N.E.2d 990
Parties, 503 N.E.2d 990 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Peter LANCASTER, Appellant.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

Joseph E. Fahey, Syracuse, for appellant.

Richard A. Hennessy, Jr., Dist. Atty. (John A. Cirando and Michael P. Marmor, Syracuse, of counsel), for respondent.

OPINION OF THE COURT

ALEXANDER, Judge.

We hold today that the People are under no obligation to charge the Grand Jury with respect to a potential defense of mental disease or defect, and therefore have no duty to present to the Grand Jury evidence within their possession of defendant's psychiatric history in support of such a charge.

I.

On October 21, 1984, Peter Lancaster, while a patient at the Hutchings Psychiatric Center in Syracuse pursuant to a CPL article 330 commitment order, 1 allegedly beat and choked another patient without provocation. Employees at the facility restrained the defendant before he was able to inflict further injury. The defendant was arraigned initially on a misdemeanor charge of assault in the third degree (Penal Law § 120.00[1] ), and ordered committed for a mental competency examination pursuant to CPL 730.30(1). Thereafter, the People notified defendant they were presenting the case to the Grand Jury, at which time defense counsel informed the prosecutor that defendant was incoherent and assaultive and would not be able to intelligently exercise his right to appear before the Grand Jury (CPL 190.50[5] ). 2 The defendant's mental state notwithstanding, the People presented its case to the Grand Jury pursuant to CPL 730.40(3) which provides in pertinent part that when a court has committed an accused by temporary order of observation, and the People subsequently elect to present the charges to the Grand Jury, such Grand Jury need not hear the defendant as it ordinarily must under CPL 190.50. The People presented testimony from the victim and certain employees and patients at the facility. Neither the defendant, nor anyone on his behalf, testified before the Grand Jury, and the People did not present any evidence of defendant's psychiatric history, his mental condition at the time of the offense, or the fact that he was a patient at the facility pursuant to a previous verdict of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. The People did, however, charge the Grand Jury that they may presume the defendant's sanity, that such presumption is rebuttable by evidence showing the defendant was insane at the time of the offense and further instructed the Grand Jury as to the defense of mental disease or defect as that defense was defined in Penal Law former § 30.05, which was applicable at the time (Penal Law former § 30.05, repealed Nov. 1, 1984, reenacted as an affirmative defense Penal Law § 40.15). 3 Defendant was indicted for attempted murder in the second degree (Penal Law §§ 110.00, 125.25[1] ), assault in the second degree (Penal Law § 120.05[1] ) and assault in the third degree (Penal Law § 120.00[1] ).

Based upon psychiatric examination reports, the trial court subsequently determined that defendant lacked the capacity to understand the proceedings against him and was unable to assist in his own defense and ordered him committed to the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Facility, where he remained for over five months until he was determined competent to proceed (CPL 730.50). 4 When defendant was deemed competent, he moved to dismiss the pending indictment (CPL 210.20[1][c] ) on the grounds that the People had wrongfully withheld from the Grand Jury evidence within their possession of his psychiatric history, which would have supported a potential defense of insanity or would have tended to negate the requisite intent element of the charged crimes; that the indictment was invalid because his condition precluded him from exercising his right under CPL 190.50(5)(a) to appear before the Grand Jury in that he was legally incompetent during the time the case was presented to the Grand Jury; and that the evidence submitted to the Grand Jury was not legally sufficient to sustain the indictment.

Trial court dismissed the counts of attempted murder and second degree assault for insufficient evidence. The Appellate Division reinstated both counts, finding the evidence sufficient to sustain all three counts of the indictment and holding, on the authority of People v. Valles, 62 N.Y.2d 36, 476 N.Y.S.2d 50, 464 N.E.2d 418, that the People were justified in relying on the presumption of sanity to establish a prima facie case before the Grand Jury and therefore had no duty to instruct the Grand Jury as to a possible defense of mental disease or defect because the determination that a person is not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect is not within the province of the Grand Jury (114 A.D.2d 92, 497 N.Y.S.2d 966). The case is before us by leave of a Judge of this court (67 N.Y.2d 945, 502 N.Y.S.2d 1038, 494 N.E.2d 123). For the reasons that follow we affirm the order of the Appellate Division.

II.

Article I, § 6 of our State Constitution guarantees that "[n]o person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime * * * unless on indictment of a grand jury" (N.Y.Const., art. I, § 6; People v. Ford, 62 N.Y.2d 275, 280, 476 N.Y.S.2d 783, 465 N.E.2d 322; People v. Iannone, 45 N.Y.2d 589, 594, 412 N.Y.S.2d 110, 384 N.E.2d 656). The traditional purpose of the Grand Jury is to prevent prosecutorial excess by ensuring that "before an individual may be publicly accused of crime and put to the onerous task of defending himself from such accusations, the State must convince a Grand Jury composed of the accused's peers that there exists sufficient evidence and legal reason to believe the accused guilty" (People v. Iannone, 45 N.Y.2d 589, 594, 412 N.Y.S.2d 110, 384 N.E.2d 656, supra; see, People v. Ford, 62 N.Y.2d 275, 282, 476 N.Y.S.2d 783, 465 N.E.2d 322, supra). Accordingly, we have long recognized the Grand Jury performs the dual function of investigating criminal activity to determine whether sufficient evidence exists to accuse a citizen of a crime, and of protecting individuals from needless and unfounded prosecutions (People v. Pelchat, 62 N.Y.2d 97, 104, 476 N.Y.S.2d 79, 464 N.E.2d 447; People v. Ford, 62 N.Y.2d 275, 282, 476 N.Y.S.2d 783, 465 N.E.2d 322, supra; Matter of Additional Jan. 1979 Grand Jury v. Doe, 50 N.Y.2d 14, 19, 427 N.Y.S.2d 950, 405 N.E.2d 194; People v. Iannone, 45 N.Y.2d 589, 594, 412 N.Y.S.2d 110, 384 N.E.2d 656, supra; People v. Calbud, Inc., 49 N.Y.2d 389, 396, 426 N.Y.S.2d 238, 402 N.E.2d 1140; People v. Johnson, 20 N.Y.2d 220, 225, 282 N.Y.S.2d 481, 229 N.E.2d 481; see also, United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 343, 94 S.Ct. 613, 617, 38 L.Ed.2d 561; United States v. Dionisio, 410 U.S. 1, 16-17, 93 S.Ct. 764, 772-773, 35 L.Ed.2d 67; Wood v. Georgia, 370 U.S. 375, 390, 82 S.Ct. 1364, 1373, 8 L.Ed.2d 569; Costello v. United States, 350 U.S. 359, 362, 76 S.Ct. 406, 408, 100 L.Ed. 397). In order to further the safeguards of indictment by Grand Jury and to enable that body to fulfill its functions, the Grand Jury is accorded broad investigative powers (CPL art. 190; Matter of Stern v. Morgenthau, 62 N.Y.2d 331, 336, 476 N.Y.S.2d 810, 465 N.E.2d 349) and ought to be well informed concerning the circumstances of the case before it, for the Grand Jury exercises its discretion not only in determining that legally sufficient evidence and reasonable grounds exist to force the accused to trial on the merits, but also in charging a greater or lesser offense, or in charging a single or numerous counts (Vasquez v. Hillery, 474 U.S. 254, 106 S.Ct. 617, 623, 88 L.Ed.2d 598; People v. Valles, 62 N.Y.2d 36, 40, 476 N.Y.S.2d 50, 464 N.E.2d 418, supra [Kaye, J., concurring] ).

The People generally enjoy wide discretion in presenting their case to the Grand Jury (People v. Rockwell, 97 A.D.2d 853, 469 N.Y.S.2d 252) and are not obligated to search for evidence favorable to the defense or to present all evidence in their possession that is favorable to the accused (People v. Isla, 96 A.D.2d 789, 466 N.Y.S.2d 16) even though such information undeniably would allow the Grand Jury to make a more informed determination. In the ordinary case, it is the defendant who, through the exercise of his own right to testify and have others called to testify on his behalf before the Grand Jury (CPL 190.50[5], [6] ), brings exculpatory evidence to the attention of the Grand Jury. Except to the limited extent that CPL 190.50(5), (6) gives the accused the right to present such testimony, the Grand Jury proceeding is not intended to be an adversary proceeding (People v. Brewster, 63 N.Y.2d 419, 422, 482 N.Y.S.2d 724, 472 N.E.2d 686). The Grand Jury and the petit jury are different bodies with different functions, and the People do not have the same burden of proof before the Grand Jury (CPL 190.65[1], on evidence submitted by the People, Grand Jury must find reasonable cause to believe accused committed a crime) as they have before the petit jury (CPL 300.10[2], on evidence submitted by People, petit jury must find proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt). Neither do the People have the same obligation of disclosure at the Grand Jury stage as they have at the trial stage (see, Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215; People v. Hill, 122 Misc.2d 895, 897, 471 N.Y.S.2d 826).

The prosecutor's discretion in presenting the case to the Grand Jury, however, is not unbounded, for it is settled that at a Grand Jury proceeding, the prosecutor performs the dual role of advocate and public officer, charged with the duty not only to secure indictments but also to see that justice is done; "as a public officer he owes a duty of fair dealing to the accused and candor to the courts" (People v. Pelchat, 62 N.Y.2d 97, 105, 476 N.Y.S.2d 79, 464 N.E.2d 447, supra). The...

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