People v. Mendola

Decision Date02 May 1956
Citation151 N.Y.S.2d 278,1 A.D.2d 413
PartiesThe PEOPLE of the State of New York, Respondent, v. Anthony MENDOLA, Appellant.
CourtNew York Supreme Court — Appellate Division

Harry L. Rosenthal, Dist. Atty., of Monroe County, Rochester (John C. Little, Jr., Asst. Dist. Atty., Rochester, of counsel), for the People.

Anthony Mendola, in pro. per.


WILLIAMS, Justice.

This case grows out of a prison break at the Monroe County Penitentiary. The appellant, one of the inmates, was indicted for conspiracy, escape, and various felonies. Two trials were had on the several counts of the indictment resulting in two separate verdicts of guilt and culminating in one judgment of conviction, from which the defendant appeals. After reviewing the records, we are satisfied that the evidence fully supports the conviction, and if the trials had been free from serious and prejudicial error, we would affirm without hesitation. The most important question, of course, is whether the cases were fairly tried. People v. Nuzzo, 294 N.Y. 227, 234, 62 N.E.2d 47, 50.

Throughout both trials, appellant was handcuffed to a deputy sheriff. Upon the first trial, his attorney moved that the defendant be released from the manacles. The motion was denied by the court without comment and no evidence was taken regarding the necessity of such an extraordinary practice. During the second trial, the motion for removal of the manacles was again denied, upon the district attorney's statement that he was informed that the sheriff had directed that the defendant be manacled to a deputy. In denying the motion, the trial judge remarked that he was unwilling 'to interfere with the sheriff's superior knowledge, apparently, of the conduct of the defendant.'

The problem presented has not been considered in any reported case in this state. We begin our consideration with section 10 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which guarantees that a defendant cannot 'be subjected, before conviction, to any more restraint than is necessary for his detention to answer the charge.' This statute is declaratory of the common law (Report of the Commissioners on Practice and Pleadings, 1850, p. 10), which we believe has been fairly stated as follows: 'It is a common-law right of a person being tried for the commission of a crime to be free from all manner of shackles or bonds, whether of hands or feet, when in court in the presence of the jury, unless in exceptional cases where there is evident danger of his escape or in order to protect others from an attack by the prisoner. Whether that ought to be done is in the discretion of the court, based upon reasonable grounds for apprehension. But, if this right of the accused is violated, it may be ground for the reversal of a judgment of conviction.' Marion v. Commonwealth, 269 Ky. 729, 733, 108 S.W.2d 721.

The common-law rule against the shackling of prisoners is an old one, enforced in the English courts as early as 1660 and frequently thereafter (5 Howell's State Trials 979; 13 id. 222; 1 Leach's Crown Cases, 28, 36; 2 Hale's Pleas of the Crown 219; 4 Bl.Com. 322). When it is considered that the accused at that time was not permitted the services of counsel, nor allowed to offer sworn testimony in his behalf (2 Wigmore, Evidence, 3d ed., §§ 575, 579), the rule forbidding the manacling of defendants may be explained only on the ground that it was considered absolutely fundamental to even a crude system of justice.

In this country, courts and judges early condemned the practice of conducting a criminal trial with the defendant in irons, State v. Kring, 1 Mo.App. 438, affirmed 64 Mo. 591; State v. Smith, 11 Or. 205, 8 P. 343; State v. Williams, 18 Wash. 47, 50 P. 580, 39 L.R.A. 821. It has been denounced as 'highly improper' and inconsistent with the presumption of innocence, Shultz v. State, 131 Fla. 757, 758, 179 So. 764, as 'a revolting practice' which 'should rarely be done, and never, except in cases where the circumstances show real danger of escape', Faire v. State, 58 Ala. 74, 83, and as 'obnoxious to the spirit of our laws and all ideas of justice,' Gray v. State, 99 Tex.Cr.R. 305, 322, 268 S.W. 941, 950. There are cases, De Wolf v. State, 95 Okl.Cr. 287, 245 P.2d 107; People v. Kimball, 5 Cal.2d 608, 55 P.2d 483, in which the trial court, in the exercise of a reasonable discretion, has properly ordered the defendant tried in manacles. But in each of those cases there was some imperative reason for the practice, and the necessity thereof was made to appear upon the record, frequently by the taking of testimony.

The conduct of a criminal trial with the accused in...

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5 cases
  • State v. Roberts
    • United States
    • New Jersey Superior Court — Appellate Division
    • January 12, 1965
    ...of People v. Mendola, 2 N.Y.2d 270, 159 N.Y.S.2d 473, 140 N.E.2d 353 (Ct.App.1957), reversing the Appellate Division, 1 A.D.2d 413, 151 N.Y.S.2d 278 (App.Div.1956), where the court, after remarking that the sheriff, in the discharge of his duties, had the initial responsibility of determini......
  • People v. Bryant
    • United States
    • New York County Court
    • January 15, 1957
    ...importance, and makes it incumbent upon this Court to state its reasons for its action in the premises. In People v. Mendola, 4th Dept.1956, 1 A.D.2d 413, 151 N.Y.S.2d 278, reversed 2 N.Y.2d 270, 159 N.Y.S.2d 473, the Court laid down some indicia as to what might be a proper case for the ex......
  • People v. Mendola
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • July 11, 1956
  • People v. Mendola
    • United States
    • New York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • January 10, 1957
    ...(c) robbery in the first degree, and (d) grand larceny in the first degree. On appeal, the Appellate Division, Fourth Department (1 A.D.2d 413, 151 N.Y.S.2d 279), unanimously (1) reversed the judgment of conviction (the two separate verdicts of guilt on the two trials culminated in one judg......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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