People v. Martin

CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
Writing for the CourtBefore ROSENBERGER; TOM; All concur except ROSENBERGER; ROSENBERGER
Citation240 A.D.2d 5,669 N.Y.S.2d 268
Parties, 1998 N.Y. Slip Op. 1396, 1998 N.Y. Slip Op. 1397 The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Cardlin MARTIN, Defendant-Appellant.
Decision Date10 February 1998

Page 268

669 N.Y.S.2d 268
240 A.D.2d 5, 1998 N.Y. Slip Op. 1396,
1998 N.Y. Slip Op. 1397
The PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent,
v.
Cardlin MARTIN, Defendant-Appellant.
Supreme Court, Appellate Division,
First Department.
Feb. 10, 1998.

Page 269

Karan B. Aronskind, for defendant-appellant.

Robert F. Petrone, New York City, of counsel (Stanley R. Kaplan, on the brief, Robert T. Johnson, attorney), for respondent.

Before ROSENBERGER, J.P., and WALLACH, RUBIN and TOM, JJ.

TOM, Justice.

The narrow issue under review concerns the propriety of the trial court's exercise of discretion in denying defendant's presentence motion to withdraw his guilty plea based on recently discovered, purportedly exculpatory, information that the arresting officers were the subject of a departmental investigation involving corrupt activities.

Police Officers Dwayne Townsend and Rich Rivera testified at the suppression hearing. While responding to a complaint of a disorderly crowd, the officers saw defendant conversing with a woman in the location specified in the complaint. The officers knew this to be a drug-prone location in which weapons were often present and knew, in fact, that an undercover officer previously had been shot nearby. When defendant turned toward the officers, the officers saw the glint of metal tucked in defendant's waistband. Defendant started to run as the police called him over. The officers gave chase, during which defendant, when pushed to the ground, extracted a stainless steel .357 magnum handgun and aimed it at Rivera's

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head. After a brief struggle, defendant was disarmed and arrested. During the ride to the precinct, defendant stated that he had been trying to sell the gun to someone in the building to buy crack, and that the officers would have been "justified in shooting him and thank God [they] were veterans because if [they] were rookies he would have been shot." None of the officers had asked the defendant any questions or conversed with him when this statement was made.

In seeking suppression, defense counsel argued the lack of reasonable suspicion for the initial stop, claiming that defendant neither had displayed a gun or nor had acted aggressively toward the officers and that there were no other indications of criminality. In his pro se memorandum, defendant claimed essentially that he had had the right to walk, or even run, away, and that the attempted stop precipitating his flight was not justified by the officers' fears for their safety. The motion court found the initial stop and subsequent pursuit to have been unjustified, and that based upon defendant's conduct the officers had only a common-law right of inquiry. However, the court found defendant's act of extracting and aiming the handgun at Officer Rivera to attenuate the illegality and to provide a viable predicate for defendant's arrest. The court also found the defendant's statement to have been spontaneous and voluntary.

Defendant entered a plea arrangement with the District Attorney. Prior to the plea proceeding, defendant had admitted at a parole revocation hearing that he had possessed the gun.

At the plea proceeding, defendant allocuted to the basic facts alleged in the information. Defendant stated in open court that "I never denied possessing the weapon, your honor." He also acknowledged waiver of his right to go to trial, waived his right to move to dismiss, waived his right to appeal denial of pretrial motions to dismiss or suppress and acknowledged that he would not be able to withdraw his plea of guilty. The court then accepted defendant's plea.

Defendant subsequently moved to withdraw his guilty plea and reopen the Mapp hearing based on newly discovered evidence, consisting of a newspaper article that stated that the arresting officers were targets of a corruption probe in their Bronx precinct. Apparently, around the time of the plea proceeding, Officers Rivera and Townsend were the subject of a Police Department investigation into police corruption in their precinct. After Townsend was caught taking money from a car utilized in a sting operation, he was placed on desk duty, and eventually he was indicted. In response to the Brady claim, the trial prosecutor specifically denied any personal knowledge of the corruption probe, and affirmed that as of the current date, the District Attorney's Office was unaware of any misconduct by the officers. The prosecutor further stated that at most, at some time prior to the plea, the District Attorney's office received an unsubstantiated rumor, stated by another officer, that Rivera was "up to his old tricks." The motion court denied defendant's motion.

Defendant was convicted, pursuant to his guilty plea, of criminal possession of a weapon in the third degree. At the sentencing proceeding, he was adjudicated a persistent felony offender and received the promised sentence of six years to life in lieu of a potential sentence of 25 years to life. Prior to defendant's sentencing, the officers had been indicted for perjury and larceny-related offenses arising out of shakedowns and thefts from drug dealers.

This appeal brings up for review denial, after a hearing, of defendant's motion to suppress physical evidence and statements, as well as denial of his motion to vacate his plea and to reopen the hearing.

Initially, a decision to vacate a plea rests in the sound discretion of the motion court, subject only to an abuse-of-discretion standard, determined on a case-by-case basis (People v. Fiumefreddo, 82 N.Y.2d 536, 543, 605 N.Y.S.2d 671, 626 N.E.2d 646; People v. Gonzalez, 185 A.D.2d 159, 587 N.Y.S.2d 157, lv. denied 80 N.Y.2d 904, 588 N.Y.S.2d 829, 602 N.E.2d 237; People v. Patrick, 163 A.D.2d 84, 557 N.Y.S.2d 341, lv. denied 76 N.Y.2d 895, 561 N.Y.S.2d 558, 562 N.E.2d 883). It is well settled that a guilty plea will be upheld if it was entered knowingly, voluntarily

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and with an understanding of the consequences thereof (North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25, 91 S.Ct. 160, 27 L.Ed.2d 162; People v. Moissett, 76 N.Y.2d 909, 910-911, 563 N.Y.S.2d 43, 564 N.E.2d 653), especially when the defendant makes a complete factual allocution in the presence of counsel and after the court apprised the defendant of the consequences of his plea (People v. Thompson, 174 A.D.2d 702, 571 N.Y.S.2d 553, lv. denied 79 N.Y.2d 833, 580 N.Y.S.2d 213, 588 N.E.2d 111), reflecting, we have noted, the judicial interest in conferring finality on plea negotiations (People v. Patrick, supra).

A prosecutor's inadvertent or negligent failure to disclose exculpatory material in his control (Giglio v. United States, 405 U.S. 150, 153-154, 92 S.Ct. 763, 765-766, 31 L.Ed.2d 104; Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 1196-1197, 10 L.Ed.2d 215; People v. Savvides, 1 N.Y.2d 554, 556, 154 N.Y.S.2d 885, 136 N.E.2d 853) has long been seen as conflicting with "considerations of elemental fairness ... and ... professional responsibility" (People v. Simmons, 36 N.Y.2d 126, 131, 365 N.Y.S.2d 812, 325 N.E.2d 139), which may deny the defendant due process when the nondisclosure of even unrequested exculpatory evidence is "highly material" to the defense (id. at 132, 365 N.Y.S.2d 812, 325 N.E.2d 139). Although the obligation is termed an "ongoing" one, there is a countervailing judicial interest in the finality achieved by a lawful plea. Our concern, upon which the dissent principally relies, is that a plea might not be knowing and intelligent under circumstances where information pointing to the defendant's innocence is in the possession of the prosecutor, but is not disclosed to the defendant.

Defendant's appellate position effectively asks us to construct a rule of law that preplea Brady violations, not known to a defendant at the time of the plea, require per se vacatur of the plea. However, that result would be contrary to prevailing authority. Rather, vacatur will not result from a later-raised Brady violation when the information purportedly undisclosed goes to the issue of factual guilt (People v. Day, 150 A.D.2d 595, 600, 541 N.Y.S.2d 463, lv. denied 74 N.Y.2d 807, 546 N.Y.S.2d 565, 545 N.E.2d 879) established here in the factual allocution. Postconviction Brady claims usually are denied unless the putatively exculpatory information was "highly material to the defense" (People v. Simmons, 36 N.Y.2d 126, 132, 365 N.Y.S.2d 812, 325 N.E.2d 139), thus depriving the defendant of an opportunity to cross-examine a witness on a trial issue, and depriving the defendant of due process. The better policy is to determine vacatur on Brady grounds case by case.

Here, three factors should be considered in evaluating whether there was a Brady violation arising from failure to disclose the departmental investigation: was the information truly exculpatory; was it in the People's control; and, if so, how should a reviewing court balance the defendant's right to cross-examine an adverse witness regarding evidence material to the issue of guilt or innocence against a countervailing public interest (see, People v. Ortiz, 127 A.D.2d 305, 515 N.Y.S.2d 317), such as the confidentiality of the investigation.

For the first inquiry, the exculpatory value of the undisclosed information has been equated with materiality, in that if disclosed, it would have materially affected a defendant's decision to plead guilty rather than to proceed to trial (People v. Benard, 163 Misc.2d 176, 620 N.Y.S.2d 242; cf., People v. Wright, 86 N.Y.2d 591, 635 N.Y.S.2d 136, 658 N.E.2d 1009), a criterion that we find to be useful in this case. Even when undisclosed information might have had a bearing on a defendant's tactical decision whether to forgo trial, if it is nonevidentiary, nondisclosure does not deprive the defendant of due process (People v. Jones, 44 N.Y.2d 76, 404 N.Y.S.2d 85, 375 N.E.2d 41, cert. denied 439 U.S. 846, 99 S.Ct. 145, 58 L.Ed.2d 148 [prosecutor failed to disclose at time of plea...

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17 practice notes
  • People v. Fisher
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • February 14, 2017
    ...must establish that the evidence would have materially affected the decision to plead rather than go to trial (see People v. Martin, 240 A.D.2d 5, 9, 669 N.Y.S.2d 268 [1st Dept.1998] ; 71 N.E.3d 93649 N.Y.S.3d 348People v. Armer, 119 A.D.2d 930, 501 N.Y.S.2d 203 [3d Dept.1986] ; Tate v. Woo......
  • People v. Fisher
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • February 14, 2017
    ...must establish that the evidence would have materially affected the decision to plead rather than go to trial (see People v. Martin, 240 A.D.2d 5, 9, 669 N.Y.S.2d 268 [1st Dept.1998] ; 71 N.E.3d 93649 N.Y.S.3d 348People v. Armer, 119 A.D.2d 930, 501 N.Y.S.2d 203 [3d Dept.1986] ; Tate v. Woo......
  • People v. Davis, 2019BX007394
    • United States
    • New York Criminal Court
    • October 9, 2020
    ...that nondisclosure of the evidence that has the "mere general impeachment value" does not constitute a Brady violation ( Martin , 240 A.D.2d at 5, 669 N.Y.S.2d 268 ; People v. Fernandez , 249 A.D.2d 3, 5, 670 N.Y.S.2d 840 [1st Dept. 1998] ["where the impeachment information has no bearing o......
  • People v. Wilson, 1412
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • March 23, 2018
    ...of fairness and due process (see People v. Mangarillo, 152 A.D.3d 1061, 1064, 59 N.Y.S.3d 572 [3d Dept. 2017] ; People v. Martin, 240 A.D.2d 5, 8, 669 N.Y.S.2d 268 [1st Dept. 1998], lv denied 92 N.Y.2d 856, 677 N.Y.S.2d 86, 699 N.E.2d 446 [1998] ), and we conclude that it would undermine th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • People v. Fisher
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • February 14, 2017
    ...must establish that the evidence would have materially affected the decision to plead rather than go to trial (see People v. Martin, 240 A.D.2d 5, 9, 669 N.Y.S.2d 268 [1st Dept.1998] ; 71 N.E.3d 93649 N.Y.S.3d 348People v. Armer, 119 A.D.2d 930, 501 N.Y.S.2d 203 [3d Dept.1986] ; Tate v. Woo......
  • People v. Fisher
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals
    • February 14, 2017
    ...must establish that the evidence would have materially affected the decision to plead rather than go to trial (see People v. Martin, 240 A.D.2d 5, 9, 669 N.Y.S.2d 268 [1st Dept.1998] ; 71 N.E.3d 93649 N.Y.S.3d 348People v. Armer, 119 A.D.2d 930, 501 N.Y.S.2d 203 [3d Dept.1986] ; Tate v. Woo......
  • People v. Davis, 2019BX007394
    • United States
    • New York Criminal Court
    • October 9, 2020
    ...that nondisclosure of the evidence that has the "mere general impeachment value" does not constitute a Brady violation ( Martin , 240 A.D.2d at 5, 669 N.Y.S.2d 268 ; People v. Fernandez , 249 A.D.2d 3, 5, 670 N.Y.S.2d 840 [1st Dept. 1998] ["where the impeachment information has no bearing o......
  • People v. Wilson, 1412
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court Appellate Division
    • March 23, 2018
    ...of fairness and due process (see People v. Mangarillo, 152 A.D.3d 1061, 1064, 59 N.Y.S.3d 572 [3d Dept. 2017] ; People v. Martin, 240 A.D.2d 5, 8, 669 N.Y.S.2d 268 [1st Dept. 1998], lv denied 92 N.Y.2d 856, 677 N.Y.S.2d 86, 699 N.E.2d 446 [1998] ), and we conclude that it would undermine th......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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