People v. Lopez

Decision Date02 June 1988
Citation529 N.Y.S.2d 465,71 N.Y.2d 662,525 N.E.2d 5
Parties, 525 N.E.2d 5 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent. v. Benito LOPEZ, Appellant.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
OPINION OF THE COURT

ALEXANDER, Judge.

Defendant was charged in a one-count indictment with murder in the second degree (Penal Law § 125.25 [1] ). The indictment alleged that defendant had intentionally caused the death of Herbert William Badgley "by stabbing him with a sharp instrument". After extensive consultations with counsel and family members, defendant accepted a negotiated plea arrangement under which he would plead guilty to the lesser crime of manslaughter in the first degree (Penal Law § 125.20) in full satisfaction of the indictment. During the plea allocution, however, defendant made statements that raised the possibility of a justification defense and the possibility that he lacked the requisite criminal intent. These statements prompted the prosecutor to express concerns regarding the adequacy of the allocution. The court inquired further into these matters in order to determine whether defendant possessed the necessary criminal intent and whether there existed a viable justification defense. Following its further inquiry, the court announced that it was satisfied with the allocution and accepted the guilty plea. Defendant neither moved to withdraw his plea nor to vacate the judgment of conviction; rather, he sought to challenge the sufficiency of the plea allocution for the first time on direct appeal.

The Appellate Division, 127 A.D.2d 234, 514 N.Y.S.2d 353, with one Justice dissenting, affirm defendant's conviction, concluding that he had waived any challenge to the sufficiency of the plea allocution by not moving to withdraw his plea or to vacate the judgment of conviction. 1 Defendant appeals to this court by permission of the dissenting Justice, contending that his allocution was deficient, that this deficiency was not cured by the trial court's further inquiry, and that no postallocution motion was required to preserve the issue for appeal. For the reasons discussed below, we hold defendant has failed to preserve his challenge to the sufficiency of the allocution, and affirm the order below.

I.

In order for there to be a question of law reviewable by this court, the trial court generally must have been given an opportunity to correct any error in the proceedings below at a time when the issue can be dealt with most effectively (CPL 470.05 [2]; see, People v. Michael, 48 N.Y.2d 1, 6, 420 N.Y.S.2d 371, 394 N.E.2d 1134) "The requirement that a claim must be timely raised in order to create a question of law is grounded in large part in the need to preserve limited judicial resources and avoid untoward delay in the resolution of criminal proceedings" ( People v. Michael, 48 N.Y.2d, at 6, 420 N.Y.S.2d 371, 394 N.E.2d 1134, supra). Although a defendant must be afforded an opportunity to challenge the legality of the proceedings at issue, "the very real interest of the State in achieving finality in a criminal prosecution mandates that such objections be timely raised" ( People v. Michael, 48 N.Y.2d, at 6, 420 N.Y.S.2d 371, 394 N.E.2d 1134, supra). Thus, we have held that in order to preserve a challenge to the factual sufficiency of a plea allocution there must have been a motion to withdraw the plea under CPL 220.60 (3) or a motion to vacate the judgment of conviction under CPL 440.10 ( see, People v. Claudio, 64 N.Y.2d 858, 478 N.Y.S.2d 318, 476 N.E.2d 644; People v. Pellegrino, 60 N.Y.2d 636, 467 N.Y.S.2d 355, 454 N.E.2d 938; People v. Pascale, 48 N.Y.2d 997, 425 N.Y.S.2d 547, 401 N.E.2d 904; People v. Bell, 47 N.Y.2d 839, 418 N.Y.S.2d 584, 392 N.E.2d 570; People v. Warren, 47 N.Y.2d 740, 417 N.Y.S.2d 251, 390 N.E.2d 1175). The failure to make the appropriate motion denies the trial court the opportunity to address the perceived error and to take corrective measures, if needed.

In that rare case, however, where the defendant's recitation of the facts underlying the crime pleaded to clearly casts significant doubt upon the defendant's guilt or otherwise calls into question the voluntariness of the plea, we have held that the trial court has a duty to inquire further to ensure that defendant's guilty plea is knowing and voluntary ( see, People v. Francis, 38 N.Y.2d 150, 153, 379 N.Y.S.2d 21, 341 N.E.2d 540; People v. Beasley, 25 N.Y.2d 483, 487-488, 307 N.Y.S.2d 39, 255 N.E.2d 239; People v. Serrano, 15 N.Y.2d 304, 309, 258 N.Y.S.2d 386, 206 N.E.2d 330; see generally, People v. Harris, 61 N.Y.2d 9, 471 N.Y.S.2d 61, 459 N.E.2d 170). Thus where a defendant's factual recitation negates an essential element of the crime pleaded to, the court may not accept the plea without making further inquiry to ensure that defendant understands the nature of the charge and that the plea is intelligently entered ( see, People v. Beasley, 25 N.Y.2d 483, 307 N.Y.S.2d 39, 255 N.E.2d 239, supra [factual recitation appeared to negate essential element and evidence showed defendant may not have understood nature of charge]; People v. Serrano, 15 N.Y.2d 304, 258 N.Y.S.2d 386, 206 N.E.2d 330, supra [factual recitation negated essential element] ). 2 Where the court fails in this duty and accepts the plea without further inquiry, the defendant may challenge the sufficiency of the allocution on direct appeal, notwithstanding that a formal postallocution motion was not made ( People v. Beasley, 25 N.Y.2d 483, 307 N.Y.S.2d 39, 255 N.E.2d 239, supra; People v. Serrano, 15 N.Y.2d 304, 258 N.Y.S.2d 386, 206 N.E.2d 330, supra). In such cases, the court's attention should have been instantly drawn to the problem, and the salutary purpose of the preservation rule is arguably not jeopardized.

II.

Defendant contends that his plea allocution falls within this narrow exception to the preservation requirement because his description of the facts underlying his guilty plea negated an essential element of manslaughter in the first degree--the intent to cause serious physical injury (Penal Law § 125.20)--and also raised the possibility of a justification defense. Defendant's contention must be rejected. Although defendant's responses to one series of questions posed by the court indicated that he may not have intended to cause serious physical injury, that he was merely attempting to defend himself against a knife-wielding aggressor, that he "didn't want to hurt" the victim, and that he had "feared for his life" throughout the incident, the court did not accept defendant's guilty plea upon such a questionably sufficient allocution. Rather, the court--alerted by defendant's statements and the concerns of the prosecutor, who twice interrupted the allocution to question the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
1842 cases
  • Fuller v. Schultz
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of New York
    • August 27, 2008
    ...8709, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5058, at *16-18 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 25, 2005) (Report & Rec. of K. Fox, Mag. J.); People v. Lopez, 71 N.Y.2d 662, 665-66, 529 N.Y.S.2d 465, 525 N.E.2d 5 (1988); People v. Claudio, 64 N.Y.2d 858, 858-59, 487 N.Y.S.2d 318, 476 N.E.2d 644 (1985); People v. Pellegrino, 60......
  • Hill v. West
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of New York
    • February 25, 2009
    ... ...         THE DEFENDANT: Mike [Petitioner] hands me the shotgun, Thompson comes from around the car, he has other people with him coming around the car, I blast him ...         THE COURT: Where did you shoot him? ...         THE DEFENDANT: I can't ... See People v. Lopez, 71 N.Y.2d 662, 667-68, ... Page 388 ... 529 N.Y.S.2d 465, 525 N.E.2d 5 (N.Y. 1988) ("Although defendant's responses to one series of questions ... ...
  • Snitzel v. Murry
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Western District of New York
    • July 6, 2004
    ...to preserve limited judicial resources and avoid untoward delay in the resolution of criminal proceedings." People v. Lopez, 71 N.Y.2d 662, 665, 529 N.Y.S.2d 465, 525 N.E.2d 5 (1988) (citations omitted). Thus, New York courts have held that, in order to preserve a claim that his guilty plea......
  • People v. Peque
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • November 19, 2013
    ...501, 712 N.E.2d 668 [1999];People v. Toxey, 86 N.Y.2d 725, 726, 631 N.Y.S.2d 119, 655 N.E.2d 160 [1995];People v. Lopez, 71 N.Y.2d 662, 665, 529 N.Y.S.2d 465, 525 N.E.2d 5 [1988] ). Under certain circumstances, this preservation requirement extends to challenges to the voluntariness of a gu......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • FIXING APPEAL WAIVERS IN NEW YORK.
    • United States
    • Albany Law Review Vol. 84 No. 2, June 2021
    • June 22, 2021
    ...defendant always retains the right to challenge the voluntariness of the plea and legality of the sentence" (first citing People v. Lopez, 525 N.E.2d 5, 6-7 (N.Y. 1988), and then citing Seaberg, 541 N.E.2d at (27) Thomas, 144 N.E.3d at 980 (citing Lopez, 844 N.E.2d at 1149-50). (28) See Tho......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT